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US Drone strategy will fuel desire for revenge

US Drone strategy will fuel desire for revenge

Drone attacks operated by the CIA and the targeting of suspected militants in northern Pakistan have intensified over the past month even though officials in Islamabad deny that the upsurge is linked to a specific terror plot.

There have been at least 21 strikes in September, a monthly record, as the Obama administration aims to widen the scope to take in both high and low-ranking militants.

It was claimed this week that a senior al Qaeda figure, identified as Sheikh al-Fateh, was killed in a strike last Saturday.

This month’s strikes are said to have killed more than 100 people in the country’s remote tribal areas many of them, inevitably will have been civilians.

Some analysts believe that the upsurge in strikes, more than twice the monthly average reflects ongoing US efforts to try and maintain pressure on al Qaeda and Taleban militants ahead of a review of Afghan strategy later this year.

Having set in motion the timetable for its eventual departure from Afghanistan, the US is more aware than ever of its limited ability to force the Pakistani military to move against militants it considers national assets.

“It’s also part of a longer game,” said Professor Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan security research unit at the University of Bradford. “Even after the US pulls out of Afghanistan there will still be a need for pressure on al Qaeda.”

The strikes, some involving multiple drones in co-ordinated attacks, have largely focused on the wild tribal region of North Waziristan, considered a safe haven for both al Qaeda, Taleban and associated militants.

Prime among the targets have been the Haqqani network, a father-and-son-led outfit described by Western intelligence agencies as the most potent threat to US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. The group is closely aligned with al Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

It also has a relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and yet exerts influence over the Pakistani Taleban.

Western security sources do not believe the latest terror plan involving European cities could have been the work of the Haqqanis although Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told the BBC that the plot could be the clans’ response to sustained US aerial bombardment.

“They don’t understand why they are under attack and they intend to take revenge,” he said.

The group is now headed by the young, hot-headed commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, but remains symbolically under the control of his septuagenarian father, Jalaluddin Haqqani,who rose as a mujahedin leader much favoured by the US in the 1980s. He was lavishly supported by the CIA and was once described by Texan Congressman Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified”.

From their base in North Waziristan, the Haqqanis have launched spectacular and vicious attacks on both Western troops and high profile targets in Kabul including an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Haqqanis are believed to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan, a tactic not seen there before.

The Haqqanis’ friendship with Osama Bin Laden was demonstrated in 1986, when they allowed the Saudi millionaire to erect his own militant base, known as the Lion’s Den, in Haqqani-controlled territory. Drone strategy may fuel al Qaeda desire for revenge. 10:13 AM Thursday Sep 30, 2010. – THE INDEPENDENT

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