U.S. In More Attacks Inside Pakistan

U.S. Special Operations forces appear to be launching more attacks against Taliban and al-Qaida bases inside Pakistan. But American operations inside Pakistan's restive frontier provinces are a delicate matter, both politically and militarily.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. The U.S. military is quietly but aggressively stepping up covert operations against Islamist militants in Pakistan. Unmanned drones are regularly targeting missiles at the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. American commandos also carried out an unprecedented raid into Pakistan two weeks ago. But as NPR's Tom Bowman reports, the U.S. military's new stance could endanger the stability of Pakistan's own government.

TOM BOWMAN: The Islamic fighters all but pour into Afghanistan from the rugged and mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan. No one knows that better than Major General Jeffrey Schlosser. He commands thousands of American soldiers along that border.

Major General JEFFREY SCHLOSSER (Commander, Combined Joined Task Force): As you know, as we came in here in the beginning of the year, we saw a very significant - about 40 percent increase in violence. A lot of it was coming across the borders.

BOWMAN: Schlosser, speaking last week, says the insurgents attack Afghan government offices and soldiers, small U.S. outposts. There are mounting casualty rates, roadside bombs, ever more sophisticated attacks. So the U.S. is pressing Pakistan's army and government to fight back. Last month, the Pentagon's top officer, Admiral Mike Mullin, met with senior U.S. and Pakistani officers aboard an American aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean.

Admiral MIKE MULLIN (Chief, Naval Operations): For me, more than anything, this was a chance to better understand a very complex challenge in a critical part of the world and to try to do that through the eyes of the leadership who live and work and fight there every single day.

BOWMAN: Those who live and fight there see things differently. The U.S. wants more military trainers in Pakistan. Pakistan is resisting because of public hatred toward foreigners, especially Americans on its soil.

Ms. TERESITA SCHAFFER (Director, Southeast Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies): There is a very sharp reaction against any U.S. military activity on Pakistani soil.

BOWMAN: Teresita Schaffer is director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She says the major problem for Pakistan is not the Taliban heading into Afghanistan, it's the Taliban who want to overthrow the government of Pakistan.

Ms. SCHAFFER: For Pakistan, I think the top priority in their security world is closing down suicide bombings inside of Pakistan.

BOWMAN: Some suicide bombers cross the border into Afghanistan. Mullin says he came away from the meeting hopeful that Pakistanis would do more.

Admiral MULLIN: We're trying to figure out how that fits into bringing pressure on to that border to work to minimize the cross border operations from Pakistan into Afghanistan on the case of the insurgents. And I think it's going to - it's just going to take some time.

BOWMAN: Privately, American officers say they don't have the luxury of time. Pakistan is just moving too slowly. They worry about a steadily increasing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan coming from Pakistan.

So the U.S. military itself is bringing more pressure on that border, increased use of the predator drone, with its 100-pound hell fire missile, in a special operations raid two weeks ago designed to snatch and grab Taliban leaders. Defense sources say it failed. That raid left at least nine civilians dead.

Such casualties lead to even greater anti-American sentiment and could lead to protest, even uprisings against the Pakistani government. Teresita Schaffer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the U.S. and Pakistan face a dilemma.

Ms. SCHAFFER: How to deal with this very important U.S. priority without triggering a backlash that will cause all of the situation to get worse instead of better.

BOWMAN: Schaffer says dealing with the tribal areas comes through military, economic, and political solutions. So far, she says, the main effort appears to be just military. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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