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Haqqani bigwig killing in Pak, US 'signal' of zero tolerance against save havens

October 15, 2011 - Washington

The United States has initiated a new, more aggressive approach towards the Haqqani insurgent network it asserts is supported by the Pakistan government, senior Obama administration officials said.

Three militants, including a ranking member of the Haqqani network, were killed in a US drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal region on Thursday, and additional strikes on Friday left four insurgents dead.

The decision to strike Miran Shah, the largest town of North Waziristan, was made at a National Security Council meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama two weeks ago, The Washington Post quoted one of several US officials who spoke about internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity, as saying.

The decision was intended to "send a signal" that the US would no longer tolerate a safe haven for the most lethal enemy of US forces in Afghanistan, or Pakistan's backing for it, the official added.

The drone strikes were made possible by focusing intelligence collection to "allow us to pursue certain priorities," the official said, adding that the senior Haqqani figure, Janbaz Zadran, was selected along with other targets to "demonstrate how seriously we take the Miran Shah" threat."

Military options debated at the September 29 meeting were set aside for now, officials said, including the possibility of a ground operation against Haqqani leaders similar to the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout.

Although the administration has left the raid option on the table, the potential negatives of such an operation, including the possible collapse of Pakistan's military leadership and civilian government, are seen as far outweighing its benefits, the report said.

Even as it cracks down on the Haqqani network, the White House has authorised more intensive reconciliation efforts with its leaders and those of other Afghan insurgent groups, leaving open a track initiated in August when US officials met in a Persian Gulf kingdom with Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of the group's patriarch, the report added.

With major international conferences on the war scheduled for November 2 in Istanbul and December 5 in Bonn, Germany, "what we want to do is provide an international basis of support for a political outcome in Afghanistan" that will match the military timeline adopted by NATO last November, the administration official said.

There has been widespread speculation that insurgent representatives may attend on the margins of either or both meetings, although "I wouldn't hazard a prediction at this point," the official was quoted as saying.

According to officials, an additional outcome of the NSC meeting was an order for various players- the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the State Department, and the White House itself- to stop sending mixed messages to Pakistan and others about the administration's war policies.


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