In Pakistan, US Moves From Ground to Air

CIA turns to airstrikes after land operations draw protest
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2008 7:07 AM CDT
Pakistani tribesmen look at a house that they said was hit by suspected US missile strikes on the outskirts of Pakistan's tribal area of Miran Shah along Afghanistan border on Thursday Oct 23, 2008.   (AP Photo/Abdullah Noor)
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(Newser) – The US has recalibrated its antiterror campaign in Pakistan, backing off ground raids via the Afghan border and intensifying its CIA-led airstrikes against militants. The Pakistani government had lodged bitter complaints about the ground operations, the New York Times reports, which were seen as a violation of the country's sovereignty. The US has in response sharply increased its Predator airstrikes, notching 18 since August.

American intelligence is seeking to break the grip of al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the North West Frontier Province, the nearly lawless mountain region on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But US officials admit that, without a ground operation, capturing militants and obtaining information about top al-Qaeda leaders is impossible. One senior officer told the Times, "They don't have a concept of counterinsurgency operations. It's generally a heavy punch and then they leave."