View Full Version : Pakistan Warns U.S. Not To Send Troops After Al-Qaeda

07-25-2007, 08:32 AM
Pakistan warns US not to send troops after al-Qa'ida


By Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pakistan has made clear it will not tolerate a US military operation against Osama bin Laden or other al-Qa'ida targets inside its territory, as Washington continues to push President Pervez Musharraf to do more to confront militants.

"Any attack inside our territory would be unacceptable," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, said. "Any such action would be irresponsible and dangerous. We are combating terrorism in our own interest. We do not want our efforts to be undermined by any ill-conceived action from any quarter that is inconsistent with the principles of international law."

Analysts say the rebuff - triggered by comments over the weekend by US officials claiming it maintained the right to strike suspected terrorism targets anywhere - represents a rare public glimpse of intense private negotiations between the governments. The US has been pushing General Musharraf to do more to prevent the stream of people heading to training camps inside his country.

"You cannot stop the stream. You have to shut the camps, which are all in Pakistan," said Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at New York University's Centre on International Co-operation. "If they were in Afghanistan they would have been bombed by now."

He added: "Up until now, the government of Pakistan has not authorised this except for some very small, deniable covert operations. Either Musharraf changes his policy, or the US carries out operations in Pakistan without the consent of the government."

The backdrop to the discussions is growing concern in Washington that Pakistan has failed to successfully confront al-Qa'ida and that parts of the north-west of the country have become a stronghold for militants.

Earlier this month, a US intelligence assessment concluded it was losing the battle against al-Qa'ida on a number of fronts and that in the tribal-controlled areas General Musharraf had little authority. The conclusions will have been confirmed by the recent breakdown of a ceasefire in that region between the government and the Taliban.

US officials have talked of launching operations that would be kept secret to avoid political difficulties for General Musharraf. In recent days there have even been reports that the US is building a military base inside Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border at Ghakhi Pass, leading local militants to believe the US is preparing to mount operations against them inside Pakistan.

The US military has denied the report, made by the reputable Asia Times Online website. However, a spokesman for the US Army in Afghanistan, Lt- Col David Accetta, added: "We do not conduct operations in Pakistan but our troops reserve the right to defend themselves from a real threat. This sometimes requires us to conduct counter-fire along the border after extensive coordination and communication with the Pakistan military."

General Musharraf is facing difficulties on many fronts ahead of elections later this year. In the aftermath of the operation to storm the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, there has been a backlash which has left hundreds dead and left many asking questions whether General Musharraf is genuinely prepared to confront the religious fundamentalists in his country - a group whose existence he has utilised since 9/11 as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Washington.