Bush Puts New Focus On Bin Laden, Al-Qaida
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
We have an exclusive report now on the Pentagon's efforts to go after al-Qaida and the Taliban in the mountains of Northwest Pakistan. NPR has learned that last week's raid by U.S. special operations forces into Pakistan from Afghanistan is part of a new intensified effort to go after terrorists between now and Election Day. NPR's Tom Bowman is here with the story. Tom, what have you learned?
TOM BOWMAN: Well, Melissa, government sources tell my colleague Tom Gjelten in May that this is the first phase of three phases offer, a three-paced operation. It's an intensified effort to go after Bin Laden and the likes of him and others in the tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Taliban leaders. And another source says that the CIA's armed (unintelligible) military units as well as analysts are being pulled from other parts of the world to focus just on this area.
BLOCK: Are members of Congress in the loop?
BOWMAN: They were informed about this in the past week just before the New York Times broke the story on the raid itself, the raid that took part - that took place last week. And our sources say that - some sources say they got warned of this effort as early as last July, that they knew this was coming. And there's a concern, I think, in the political impact of this in Pakistan, um, raid across the border into Pakistan could destabilize the new government, for example.
It could also make the Pakistanis reluctant to allow, you know, their logistic lines form Pakistan into Afghanistan are key getting many materials into Afghanistan for the fight in Afghanistan. So, there's a lot of worry about the political fallout of this as well.
BLOCK: And the authority for this coming from?
BOWMAN: The (unintelligible) comes from the president himself. And he already gave authority for the intelligence community to do this. There'd been some step up efforts to use predator drones, which can fire missiles. And we've seen a number of more missiles fired over the past. What's new here is giving the military authority to do this.
We're also told that this Navy SEAL team on stand by in Afghanistan, ready to mount these missions. And we expect more in the coming weeks and months.
BLOCK: And Tom, we've referred to the timing of all of this. Talk about that.
BOWMAN: Well, some of our sources are raising questions about why now. Seven years after the fall of the Taliban, why is there an intense effort here? Some are pointing to political reasons, saying that (unintelligible) has a few months left, they want to have a pelt on the wall, maybe Bin Laden or other, because there's legacy building time. But that's, again, just speculation. But a lot of people are raising that question.
BLOCK: September surprise or October surprise?
BOWMAN: Could be October surprise.
BLOCK: NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman, thanks very much.
BOWMAN: You're welcome.
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