Tuesday, July 1, 2008

White House refuses to greenlight plan for al Qaeda hunt in Pakistan

Since 2005, al Qaeda forces have been regrouping in the mountains of Pakistan along the Afghan border, and the Bush administration has done little to go after them.

A report in Monday's New York Times reveals that late last year the administration developed a secret plan for Special Operations forces to enter Pakistani tribal areas and seek to capture or kill al Qaeda leaders.

However, after six months the plan has not yet received a go-ahead, and according to ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, "The [Times] report says the White House has refused to give commanders the green light to execute the plan and says turf wars and bitter disagreements between the White House and intelligence agencies are to blame."

The Bush administration has appeared reluctant to take decisive action in Pakistan, both because the war in Iraq has had first claim on personnel and resources and out of a desire to accommodate Pakistani President Musharraf, whose government fears a tribal uprising if it acts too aggressively against the militants or allows American forces to enter the tribal areas.

In 2005, when the departure of Colin Powell and Richard Armitage left no one in the Bush administration who had a personal relationship with Musharraf, officials arranged to have President Bush raise the al Qaeda issue with Musharraf directly. However, according to the Times, "The conversations backfired. Two former United States government officials say they were surprised and frustrated when instead of demanding action from Mr. Musharraf, Mr. Bush repeatedly thanked him for his contributions to the war on terrorism."

Since then, the Pakistani government has pursued cease-fire agreements with the militants instead of combating them, helping make possible the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, rather than focusing on Pakistan during its final months in office, the Bush administration has undertaken a major escalation of covert operations against Iran in hopes of destabilizing that country's government.

Raddatz reports that President Bush is "not angry" about the leaked reports that formed the basis of the story in The New York Times but that Bush would not comment on the Hersh story about Iran.

"I suppose the logjam could be broken," Raddatz concluded, "but as you know the president is essentially a lame duck president in these last six months, so he would have to do it fast."

This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast June 30, 2008.



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