U.S. Presses The Search For Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda high value targets are almost certainly feeling the squeeze of an expanded effort by US forces to hunt them down. Excellent write up in the National Post on the ‘surge’ in Pakistan, to capture bin Laden.

The hunt for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s top terrorists has gone into overdrive in Pakistan’s wild and desolate northwest frontier.

On the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. Special Forces, working in “fusion cells” that blend human and signals intelligence with rapid reaction special forces and squadrons of heavily armed remote-controlled Predator drones, are redoubling their efforts to track down and assassinate top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

A growing number of clandestine reconnaissance missions inside Pakistan has led to sudden surge in U.S. attacks along the border with Afghanistan, as U.S. troops push to capture or kill bin Laden before the end of George W. Bush’s term in the White House.

The increase in activity may also be an attempt to disrupt the planning of possible terrorist attacks against the United States in the run-up to November’s presidential elections.

On Monday, two U.S. Predator drone aircraft attacked the base of a top Taliban commander in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, killing between 14 and 20 people.

The mid-morning attack targeted the home of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, who was a close associate of bin Laden and who, until 2002, ran a large madrassa or religious school that attracted and trained foreign militants.


More on The Hunt For Bin Laden

This comes from the Washington Post

With CIA officers and U.S. Special Forces prevented from operating freely in Pakistan, the search for bin Laden and his lieutenants is taking place mostly from the air. The Predators, equipped with multiple cameras that transmit live video via satellite, have launched their Hellfire missiles against four targets in the past month alone. Since January, the reconnaissance drones have killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders with $5 million bounties on their heads.

Still, debate persists among both U.S. and Pakistani officials over the merits of this aggressive approach, which has resulted in higher civilian casualties and strained diplomatic relations. “Making more effort and flailing are different things,” said a senior Pakistani security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid alienating U.S. authorities.

Bin Laden, a 51-year-old Saudi, has thwarted the U.S. government’s attempts to catch him since 1998, when he signed a fatwa calling for attacks on Americans and ordered the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Today, seven years after he masterminded the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, bin Laden is believed to wear disguises routinely and takes extreme care to avoid electronic communications, relying on human couriers to pass messages, officials said. Pakistani officials said the CIA and the U.S. military have played into bin Laden’s hands by pursuing al-Qaeda with bombs and missiles. Pashtun tribes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, angry at the number of civilian casualties, see the United States as the enemy, the officials said. Despite a $25 million reward posted by the U.S. government, no one has been willing to turn in the al-Qaeda leader.

“Unless you have people who support you, human intelligence will never work,” said Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, a retired Pakistani general who oversaw efforts to track bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders after 2001. “You have to have friendly people.”


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