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INTERNATIONAL > US mulls covert raids in Pakistan with Afghanistan

WASHINGTON / ISLAMABAD

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US President Obama is seen with members of the national security team at a meeting,
discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden in this May 2011 photo. AFP photo

US President Obama is seen with members of the national security team at a meeting, discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden in this May 2011 photo. AFP photo

U.S. military and intelligence officials are so frustrated with Pakistan’s failure to stop local militant groups from attacking Americans in neighboring Afghanistan that they have considered launching secret joint U.S.-Afghan commando raids into Pakistan to hunt them down, officials told The Associated Press.

But the idea, which U.S. officials say comes up every couple of months, has been consistently rejected because the White House believes the chance of successfully rooting out the Haqqani network would not be worth the intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan that inevitably would ensue.

The latest round of debate over whether to launch clandestine special operations raids into Pakistan against the Haqqanis came after the June 1 car bombing of Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan that injured up to 100 U.S. and Afghan soldiers, according to three current and two former U.S. officials who were briefed on the discussions.

The officials say options that have been prepared for President Barack Obama’s review included raids that could be carried out by U.S. special operations forces together with Afghan commandos, ranging from air assaults that drop raiders deep inside the tribal areas to hit top leaders to shorter dashes only a few miles into Pakistan territory.

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The officials said that recent discussions of clandestine ground attacks have included Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, as well as top CIA and special operations officials. Allen’s spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, said Allen “has not and does not intend to push for a cross-border operation.” The White House and the CIA declined to comment for this story.

As the international tension continues, Pakistan’s main ruling party nominated Raja Pervez Ashraf as prime minister and said it was heading towards elections, forced onto the back foot after a court issued an arrest warrant for its first candidate. The lower house of Parliament was scheduled to meet on June 22 to elect a new premier in a bid to end a political crisis sparked by the Supreme Court’s dismissal of premier Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt. “This is election year and we are going towards elections,” Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) official Syed Khurshid Shah said, referring to the national assembly year, which starts in June.

Ashraf, who served as information technology minister until last week, was originally named as a “cover” candidate when President Asif Ali Zardari picked textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin as his preferred choice. An anti-narcotics court took the unusual step of issuing an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin over a drugs scandal.

June/23/2012

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