US Steps Up Secret Pakistan Air Strikes

Predators hammer al-Qaeda strongholds before Pakistan cracks down
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2008 6:09 AM CDT
Deputy al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri praises Abu Laith al-Libi, an al-Qaeda commander believed to have been killed by a missile from a US Predator drone that struck his safehouse in Pakistan,   (AP Photo/IntelCenter)
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(Newser) – The US is stepping up air strikes on suspected al-Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. The Predator bombings—which neither the US or Pakistan will officially confirm—aim to rattle terror leaders out of hiding before the country's new leaders are expected to demand the US scale back its operations. The "shake the tree" strategy has reportedly killed 45 foreign fighters.

Pakistan's border areas are thought to be home to numerous al-Qaeda members who fled Afghanistan. President Pervez Musharraf has allowed the US a fairly free hand in striking at non-Pakistani militants, but his power is fading and the new government, keen to assert sovereignty, isn't likely to back continued bombings. Senior coalition partner and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told US diplomats it was unacceptable to use the country as a "killing field."