Washington, Sept 11 : Senior US officials have revealed that American President George W Bush had for the first time secretly passed orders in July (2008) to carry out unilateral military operations and air strikes in Pakistan without prior approval of the Pakistan government.
Bush's "orders" signal a watershed for the US administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants' increasingly secure base in Pakistan's tribal areas, said an article in the New York Times.
The stepped-up US' campaign inside Pakistan comes at a time when American-Pakistani relations have been fraying, and when anger is increasing within American intelligence agencies about ties between Pakistan's ISI Directorate and militants in the tribal areas.
In the recent months, American officials have said that they will only "notify" Pakistan when they conduct attacks on Pakistani soil near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission. "The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable. We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued," said a senior American official on the condition of anonymity.
The new orders illustrate "lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies" and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details, said the article.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft, but the new orders for the military's Special Operations forces relax firm restrictions on conducting raids on the soil of an important ally (read Pakistan) without its permission.
Meanwhile, Islamabad has repeatedly opposed unilateral military aids. Pakistan COAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani said last evening that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country's sovereignty "at all costs."
Pakistan's government has asserted that last week's raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas. "Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion. In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops," said Pakistan's envoy to Washington Husain Haqqani during a speech on Friday.
A new American command structure was put in place this year to better coordinate missions by the CIA and members of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, made up of the Army's Delta Force and the Navy Seals. The move was intended to "address frustration on the ground" about different agencies operating under different marching orders. Under the arrangement, a senior CIA official based at Bagram air base in Afghanistan was put in-charge of coordinating CIA and military activities in the border region.
Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the CIA declined to comment about the new orders.
American commanders in Afghanistan have complained bitterly that militants use sanctuaries in Pakistan to attack American troops in Afghanistan. Analysts at the CIA and other American spy and security agencies believe not only that the bombing of India's embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July by militants was aided by ISI operatives, but also that the highest levels of Pakistan's security apparatus - including the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani - had knowledge of the plot.
"It's very difficult to imagine he was not aware," a senior American official said of General Kayani.