US rehearses strikes inside Pakistan: diplomats
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON: The US military has already completed ‘dry exercises’ for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, in the event an attack on the American soil is traced to that country, diplomatic sources told Dawn on Saturday.
Also known as a dry run, this trial exercise is a rehearsal of a military’s combat skills without the use of live ammunition.
The trial run for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, however, did not involve US troops. Instead, it projected computer simulations of such an attack with an assessment of a possible counterattack and of the potential resistance US troops might face if they entered the Pakistani soil.
Diplomatic sources said the Americans had already informed Pakistan of their intention to conduct such an exercise before conducting the computer simulations.
The Bush administration had also planned live exercises close to the Pakistan border after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 and conveyed its decision to Islamabad as well, the sources added.
This caused the-then national security adviser, Mahmud Ali Durrani, to fly to Washington for convincing the Americans that such exercises would not help the fight against terrorism. Instead, they would have weakened the nascent democratic setup in Pakistan and eroded its ability to support the US-led war.
The Americans cancelled the exercise after US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and received an assurance that Pakistan would do its best to prevent extremists from using its soil for attacking other countries.
“The American decision to once again explore the possibility of a unilateral military strike is not a threat,” said a diplomatic source.
“It aims at convincing Pakistanis that now is the time to uproot extremists. A failure to do so may lead to an attack on the US soil, which, in turn, could lead to an American military strike inside Pakistan.”
The source explained that the Americans believed there were people in the Pakistani establishment who still sympathised with the jihadi elements.
While such people, according to this source, were no longer interested in protecting Al Qaeda or the Afghan Taliban, “they still have a soft corner for Pakistani jihadi elements, particularly those who fought in Kashmir.”
The Americans, however, “have concluded that all such groups are linked to Al Qaeda, whether they are fighting in Kashmir or Afghanistan, and want all of them uprooted,” the source added.
Diplomatic sources in Washington also observed that the decision to leak to the media the US military’s plans for a unilateral strike aimed at “persuading any elements in the power structure in Islamabad to do what is needed: share more intelligence, stop insisting that there are good Taliban and bad Taliban and to get serious about uprooting all jihadi groups.”
The Pakistani judiciary was also requested not to be lenient to people like Hafiz Saeed, the source added.
The US plans for a unilateral strike in Pakistan was first reported on Saturday by The Washington Post, which quoted top US military officials as saying that the Obama administration sought new options on striking Pakistan since a Pakistani-American attempted to attack New York City.
The report quoted unnamed US military officials as saying the US would only consider launching an attack in Pakistan in an extreme situation where current military action was not adequate. The CIA has been using drones to bomb Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan.
Sunday, 30 May, 2010