- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2011

The U.S. has compiled a wide body of intelligence on the locations of militant training camps in Pakistan, but has been unable to persuade Islamabad to shut them down, current and former officials say.

A former senior administration official said the biggest concern is a network of camps in North Waziristan from which the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked groups train and recruit fighters, as well as build improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Some of the camps are associated with the Haqqani Network, an insurgent group that carries out attacks on NATO troops from its hide-outs in North Waziristan and which is widely believed to have links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Persuading Pakistan to crack down in North Waziristan is taking on added importance. NATO plans in coming months to step up its counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan’s Regional Command East — or RC-East, as it is called — after ridding the southern region around Kandahar of many Taliban safe havens.

The new war in the east could be hamstrung if the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups are allowed to simply cross back into North Waziristan’s safe havens.

“We have had broad conversations with Pakistan about North Waziristan and the reasons for intervention,” the former official said. “There have been wide-ranging discussions about extremist groups in Pakistan and what should be done about them. Training capabilities of these groups have been part of the conversation.”

It has not been an easy conversation, as reflected in the recent U.S. decision to withhold $800 million in military aid for Pakistan — a tangible sign of Washington’s frustration over Islamabad’s lack of progress in North Waziristan, among other concerns.

A White House spokesman declined to comment to The Washington Times when asked whether the U.S. had provided Pakistan with its intelligence on training camps.

The dilemma is that information that U.S. forces share with their Pakistani counterparts can find its way to the militants, who then change their tactics or locations, the former official said.

News reports last month said the U.S. provided Pakistan with information on bomb-making plants, only to see the sites evacuated afterward.

Pakistan does not allow NATO ground troops to cross into its territory to attack insurgents. The killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town on May 2 by Navy SEALs was conducted without Islamabad’s prior approval.

The U.S. is limited to CIA-directed drone strikes on individual compounds in an effort to kill militant leaders.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, told The Times that the situation may come to a point where the Obama administration has no choice other than to launch attacks into Pakistan. He declined to specify the types of attacks.

“These are established, vetted safe havens that operate in Pakistan,” Mr. Hunter said. “They rest up, then they come back across with materiel and supplies and new guys to attack our troops. We know where these guys are down to a [small area on a map].”

The likelihood that the Obama administration would launch attacks into Pakistan is questionable, considering the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Yet the administration has stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas and did approve the bin Laden raid without Islamabad’s prior knowledge.

Story Continues →