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Pakistan: US Banned From Attacking al-Qaida in Tribal Areas

  • VOA News

Pakistani military officials say US forces will not be allowed to hunt for al-Qaida fighters in Pakistani territory, despite a news report that American strategists are considering such action.

Pakistan's top military spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad, said US forces do not carry out military strikes inside Pakistan now and will not be allowed to do so in the future.

He was referring to a published report Sunday that President Bush's senior national-security advisers are debating whether US forces should carry out covert operations in Pakistan's tribal areas. The New York Times says American intelligence indicates that al-Qaida and the Taliban are intensifying efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Mahmud Ali Durrani said in a US television interview on Sunday that his government is seriously combating terrorism on its own.

The New York Times says senior US officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Friday at the White House to consider whether the CIA and the US military should be given the authority to directly carry out aggressive operations inside Pakistan's tribal areas. Those regions near the border with Afghanistan are a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and possibly are concealing Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the al-Qaida terror network.

Critics say any unilateral action by US forces inside Pakistan would spark a popular backlash against both President Pervez Musharraf and the United States, even though Pakistani efforts to patrol the area using special paramilitary forces have largely failed to deter militants.

The Pakistani ambassador to Washington suggested Sunday that any talk of direct US action in the tribal areas comes down to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. He said President Musharraf's government "is totally focused on destroying al-Qaida and the Taliban network, and not just one person."

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