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The Sanctuary of Pakistan

America is already operating in Pakistan covertly, with CIA and Special Forces on the ground and Predator drones in the air. However, whether the US Army itself will cross the border and cut off the insurgent sanctuary as it did in Cambodia in 1970, remains to be seen. President Musharraf has repeatedly warned Bush about the consequences of Americans violating Pakistan's sovereignty and taking on the tribal areas themselves saying, “the man in the street will not allow this ‚ he will come out and agitate.” So, an increased presence of Americans risks playing into the hands of Al Qaeda's propaganda, and increasing the ire of regular Pakistanis, but not to use US forces risks not achieving important military goals.

The New York Times reports that “the top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Musharraf to allow the CIA greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups are all active.” Although Musharraf has denied the US unilateral means to operate inside Pakistan, he will allow better coordination of joint activities. This includes sharing of actionable intelligence so Pakistani forces can do the actual mission and increasing the number and scope of missions by armed Predator surveillance aircraft. Does this mean US operators have the power to attack with the Predators on their own volition or will they have to seek permission from the Pakistanis? These rules of engagement and the speed of decision will mean the difference between a successful hit and a target that gets away.

UPDATE: The Asia Times reports that the US has completed construction and made operational “a military base in Afghanistan's Kunar province, just three kilometers from Bajaur Agency in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The new US base is expected to serve as the center of clandestine special forces’ operations in the border region.”



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