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Change We Can Believe In: Pakistan Raids

From my friend Eli Lake at The New York Sun:

While American special forces and military contractors have conducted raids in Pakistan, such actions were rare and required Cabinet-level approval. In July, the leadership of Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was given the sole authority to approve ground assaults in Pakistan. Late last month, the American military began launching ground attacks in the country on a near daily basis, depending on local conditions and intelligence, according to a military official who requested anonymity.

The escalation in Pakistan is due in part to the incoming leader of Central Command, General David Petraeus, who has been credited with changing the course of the Iraq war and is said to have the full trust of President Bush. Before formally taking the reins at Central Command, General Petraeus began meeting in June with Pakistani political leaders to develop an effective strategy for combating Al Qaeda in the border provinces.

Most important for the Bush administration, however, has been the political implosion in Islamabad since the resignation of America's longtime ally, President Musharraf.

"With Musharraf gone, the policy of self-deterrence is now gone," a former senior counterterrorism official for both the Clinton and Bush national security councils, Roger Cressey, said. "We would deter ourselves from doing anything for fear that any action would destabilize Musharraf."

"The other point here is the brazenness and frequency of Taliban-led raids really required U.S. forces to be aggressive," he said. "I think this is less about getting bin Laden than it is about responding to the Taliban."

It is far preferable for the Pakistani military - the Army, not the Frontier Corps - to execute precision operations against the Taliban-al-Qaeda undertaking an insurgency within their own country. But that's just not going to happen. So the buck falls to... you guessed it.

NOTE: In a US strike yesterday, a Taliban commander was killed, apparently with quite a crew around him including "Arabs," which should be taken to mean al-Qaeda terrorists.

Suspected US drones hit the house and seminary of former Taliban commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani in Dandi Derpakhel area of North Waziristan on Monday killing 23 people, including three Arab and two Azerbaijani nationals among them.

According to sources, Maulvi Jalaluddin’s eight grandchildren, wife, sister, sister-in-law and other relatives were killed. Fourteen other people were injured.

What's the significance of this Jalaluddin Haqqani character, you ask? Well, the bio sketch of Haqqani from PBS' Frontline opens, "A warlord and head of the Taliban in North Waziristan, Jalaluddin Haqqani is believed to be the architect of the Taliban's current attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and he's credited with introducing a new tactic -- suicide bombing."

We wish we would have gotten him years ago, but regardless, he is what you would call a 'big fish,' a very high value target. Considering the crew around him at the time of the attack, referring to him as a "seminarian" and a "former commander" is, shall we say, a bit too generous of a description.

This was not 'just another missile strike' on some mud hut in the badlands of the Hindu-Kush mountain ranges.