Thursday, February 28, 2008

Western Predatory Tactics

Consider the strange series of stories this past week. The Marine Corp Times reported that Al Qaida remains America's number one threat, at least according to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. He said:

“Al-Qaida is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: The identification, training and positioning of operatives for an attack on the homeland,” McConnell said. “While increased security measures at home and abroad have caused al-Qaida to view the West, especially the U.S., as a harder target, we have seen an influx of new Western recruits into the tribal areas [of Pakistan] since mid-2006.

CNN reported on a missile strike in that very region of Pakistan. It killed 8 and wounded 3 people. So who sent the missile if the U.S. military didn't?

The British military and the CIA have Predators, attack drones capable of firing missiles from remote locations. They pull the trigger from a command post outside Las Vegas, Nevada. So even if the U.S. military denied any involvement, the U.S. clearly played a role. General Atomics, an American company makes the Predator and its more powerful companion, The Reaper. The safe haven for its operation is American soil in the desert Southwest.

The U.S. is clearly involved. Let's go back to the tribal region of Pakistan for a moment. It harbors the top leaders of al Qaida, the number one threat to America. Note the time frame mentioned by Mike McConnell. New Western recruits have been going to that area since mid-2006. One might expect, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to have acted on such intelligence, now nearly two years old. What did he do? In late 2007, he disbanded the judiciary, jailed his political opponents, and shuttered a free media. None of these acts addressed Mr. McConnell's threat.

In early November 2007, Musharraf freed twenty eight militants, including suspected suicide bombers in return for captured Pakistani soldiers. Within months Benazir Bhutto, his main political rival died from a suicide bomb. The most recent man arrested in conjuction with the Bhutto attack had been captured in 2004 and turned over to the Pakistani government, which later freed him in July 2007.

The last piece of the puzzle was offered by Fran Townsend on a Fox News special. President Bush wants in the worst way to capture or kill Osama bin Laden before his term ends. Given his location, remote drones are the most effective way to accomplish this aim. Unfortunately, the increased use of robot weapons comes with a larger error rate, i.e. more civilian deaths.

It remains to be seen if all these actions reduce or increase the number of terrorists intent on harming America. However, if "deteriorating" Afghanistan is the petri dish, the scourge of terror continues to grow. It's a good thing Prince Harry just rode in to save the day. Maybe he can tell us if that was a British Predator that just struck Pakistan. If the answer is "no", that leaves the CIA and we know they aren't talking.