US studies options for possible Pakistan attack

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Washington, May 29: The US Army is studying options for a (unilateral strike) in Pakistan, in case a successful terror strike on America is traced back to the semi-autonomous tribal regions of that country, top military officials have disclosed.

Officials said that the alleged links between the confessed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and the terror groups operating from the lawless tribal regions, particularly the Taliban, have (sharpened) the Obama administration''s need for retaliatory options.

Planning has been reinvigorated in the wake of Times Square, The Washington Post quoted one of the officials, privy to the development, as saying.

It may be noted that President Obama sent his two top security advisers- National Security Adviser James Jones, and the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta to Islamabad earlier this month, who reportedly told both the civilian and the military leadership of that country that it must go against extremists flourishing on country's soil with more force.

US officials said that there is a broad consensus amidst the country's military establishment that airstrikes would be the best option to erode the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. However, there are also concerns over not letting any military action to affect the relationship between both countries.

"The general feeling is that we need to be circumspect in how we respond so we don''t destroy the relationships we''ve built" with the Pakistani military," the newspaper quoted another official, as saying.

It is pertinent to mention that the CIA has the authority to designate and strike targets in Pakistan without case-by-case approval from the White House.

The U.S. military forces are currently authorized to carry out unilateral strikes in Pakistan, but only if there is solid intelligence against any of the three 'high-value' targets: Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Taliban warlord Mohammad Omar.

"The bottom line is you have to have information about targets to do something, we have a process that remains cumbersome. If something happens, we have to confirm who did it and where it came from. People want to be as precise as possible to be punitive," added an official.


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