Expanded Predator targeting in Pakistan is very old news


For some reason, this story about the expansion of of the US air campaign in Pakistan to include lower-level terrorist operatives and foot soldiers is getting a lot of play. From CNN:

When the latest apparent U.S. drone strike was conducted this week against militants in Pakistan, the obvious question appeared to be: Did the United States get a “big fish” in the Taliban or al Qaeda organizations?

But a U.S. counterterrorism official says that’s now the wrong question to ask, and chances are those hit were not major players. He wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the latest strike, but with the official backing of his bosses, he sought to explain how U.S. strategy has changed in the crucial effort to attack targets inside Pakistan with missiles fired from drones.

The plan now is to attack a broader set of terrorist targets far beyond the original effort to strike and kill top al Qaeda leaders, the official said.

The strategy originated not with President Barak Obama, but with the previous administration, he said.

CNN is correct, this goes back to the Bush administration. But this has been no secret. Back on Sept. 19, 2008, The Long War Journal explained that high-value targets were not the only focus of the campaign:

US Special Operations Forces have stepped up attacks inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies in part of an effort to prevent the next major attack inside the United States, senior military and intelligence sources told The Long War Journal.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said reports that the Bush administration is focused on “getting Osama bin Laden,” the elusive leader of al Qaeda’s global network, are overblown.

“Getting bin Laden would be nice, and it would clearly be a victory, but at the end of the day, al Qaeda’s network will still exist,” one source told The Long War Journal. “We need to take down that network to stop the next attack on US soil. Al Qaeda is more than bin Laden.”

The cross-border raids are designed to disrupt al Qaeda’s training camps and safe houses that aid in preparing for attacks against the West, sources say. The US is also targeting al Qaeda’s Taliban allies in Pakistan, such as the powerful Haqqani family in North Waziristan and the Taliban forces of Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan.

“The Haqqanis, Nazir, Baitullah [Mehsud], Faqir [Mohammed], and others in the tribal areas not only facilitate attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, they play a critical role in facilitating attacks against the West by providing safe havens and sponsoring camps that train foreign terrorists,” a military intelligence source said.

This was all too clear back in the summer of 2008 if you followed the pattern of the strikes. And it became even clearer as you watched the results of the attacks in the year and a half since.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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