US develops plan for unilateral strike on Pak

US develops plan for unilateral strike on Pak

US develops plan for unilateral strike on Pak

Plans for a unilateral strike were developed after ties between Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and elements of the Pakistani Taliban were established, Washington Post reported.

"Planning has been reinvigorated in the wake of the Times Square," the paper said quoting officials.

But US retaliation, officials said, was contemplated only under extreme circumstances such as catastrophic attack that leaves President Barack Obama convinced that the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes is insufficient.

The military bomb would focus on air and missile strikes but also could use small teams of US special forces currently deployed along the border with Pakistan.

"One of the senior military officials said plans for military strikes in Pakistan have been revised significantly over the past several years, moving away from a "large, punitive response" to more measured plans meant to deliver retaliatory blows against specific militant groups," the daily said.

US special operations team in Afghanistan has pushed for years to have a wider latitude to carry out raids across the border, arguing that CIA drone attacks do not yield prisoners or other opportunities to gather intelligence.

But a helicopter borne US special forces raid against targets in Pakistan in 2008 prompted protests from Islambad.

The Post said a senior official had told Pakistan that it has only weeks to show a real progress to crackdown against the Taliban.

Washington is insisting on Islamabad to launch a major strike on the Haqqani network of the Taliban which is suspected to have safe havens in North Waziristan, where Pakistan Army has shown reluctance to go in.

The paper said Islamabad has been "put on a clock" to launch a new intelligence and counter-terrorist operation against the group.

The paper said US officials have told Pakistan that Washington reserves the right to strike in the tribal areas in pursuit of world's most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden and other high value targets like his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri and Mullah Omar.

At the same time, the US administration is trying to deepen ties with Pakistan's intelligence in a bid to head off any attack by militant groups.

The Post said that US and Pakistan had recently established a joint military intelligence centre on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar and were in consultations for setting up a similar establishment in Quetta, where US suspect that the Afghan Taliban leadership is based.

These fusion centres are a part of parallel US military efforts to step up pressure on Taliban and Al Qaeda. US officials said that the sharing of intelligence goes both ways and that targets are monitored in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the Peshawar fusion cell which has come up in the last few months, Pakistani army and intelligence have access to "full motion video from different platforms" including UAV drones, an official said.

This delicate arrangement will be tested if the two sides reach an agreement on the Quetta centre. The paper said the city has served for nearly a decade as a sanctuary for Taliban leaders who fled Afghanistan in 2001 and have long-standing ties to Pakistan's powerful ISI.

A senior US official said the centre would be used to track the Afghan Taliban leadership known as Quetta Shura. But other officials said the main mission would be to support the US military effort across the border in Kandahar where a major US military push is in the offing.

The report comes in the wake of failed May one attack on New York's crowded Times Square. Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani born naturalised US citizen was arrested as he was trying to flee US on a Dubai bound flight.

This attack, Post said had sharpened the Obama Administration's need for retaliatory options. During his campaign drive the US President had said that he would be willing to order strikes in Pakistan.

The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recently in a television interview after the Times Square plot warned "if heaven forbid, an attack like this we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences".

US recently despatched its two officials, CIA chief Leon Panetta and National Security Adviser James L Jones to Islamabad to deliver a similar message to President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

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