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Special to The Tribune
US plans military strike if terror plot traced to Pak
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

The United States military is looking at options for a unilateral military strike against Pakistan should there be a major terrorist incident in America that is traced to Pakistan, The Washington Post reported over the weekend.

The Post, citing senior military officials, said ties between Faisal Shahzad, the alleged Times Square bomber and the Pakistani Taliban have "sharpened the Obama administration's need for retaliatory options."

"Planning has been reinvigorated in the wake of Times Square," one of the officials said.

The paper reported the officials as saying a U.S. reprisal would be contemplated "only under extreme circumstances, such as a catastrophic attack that leaves President Obama convinced that the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes is insufficient."

President Barack Obama recently dispatched his top two intelligence aides - National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta - to Pakistan to deliver a stern warning to the government in Islamabad to rein in terrorist groups operating in Pakistan. The disruption of the plot to blow up Times Square prompted the visit.

Gen. Jones told reporters he and Mr. Panetta sought to "impress upon our friends [in Pakistan] that it is essential that terrorism be defeated and that wherever there are the presence of terrorists of the perception of presence of terrorists that it’s in the interest of Pakistan to not only repudiate the existence of those kinds of organizations but also at the appropriate time to rid Pakistan of those — of that presence.”

In their meetings with Pakistani officials — including President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani — the two U.S. officials presented evidence gathered by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Shahzad had received significant support from the Pakistani Taliban.

During his presidential campaign, Obama had said he would be willing to order strikes in Pakistan. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a television interview after the Times Square bombing attempt that “if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.”

“The U.S. options for potential retaliatory action rely mainly on air and missile strikes, but could also employ small teams of U.S. Special Operations troops already positioned along the border with Afghanistan. One of the senior military officials said plans for military strikes in Pakistan have been revised significantly over the past several years, moving away from a “large, punitive response” to more measured plans meant to deliver retaliatory blows against specific militant groups,” the Post reported.

It said U.S. spy agencies have engaged in a major buildup inside Pakistan over the past year. The CIA has also increased the pace of drone strikes against al-Qaeda affiliates.





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