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'US beefs up drone attacks in Pak as army unwilling to act'

The US campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan is being beefed up by the CIA, amid fears that Islamabad is "unable or unwilling to do the job", a news report said today.

world Updated: Oct 02, 2010 23:19 IST

The US campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan is being beefed up by the CIA, amid fears that Islamabad is "unable or unwilling to do the job", a news report said on Saturday.

US officials are also unhappy that some elements of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) continue to support the Haqqanis to counter against India's presence in the region, and have not dismantled the group, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is using aerial drones and weaponry being diverted by the US military from Afghanistan to step up its anti-terrorism operations in Pakistan.

"The shift in strategic focus reflects the US view that, with Pakistan's military unable or unwilling to do the job, more U.S. force against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan is now needed to turn around the struggling Afghan war effort across the border," the Journal said.

Pakistan's inability to act against the militants on its own soil leaves a gap that Americans need to fill, according to a former senior intelligence official.

The Pakistani military is tapped out, the former official said, adding, "They've gone as far as they can go."

The military has reportedly loaned Predator and Reaper drones to the CIA, which allowed the intelligence agency to escalate the number of strikes in September, it said, adding that agency averaged five strikes a week in September, up from an average of two to three per week.

The report said the Pentagon and CIA have ramped up their purchases of drones, but the demand still outweighed the supply.

The campaign escalated in the wake of intelligence reports that the world's most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden and senior al-Qaeda operatives were plotting to attack a European country -- Britain, France or Germany.

The Journal further said that US officials were speaking about unilateral action inside Pakistan if a terrorist attack hatched inside the country was actually successful.

But this is a scenario that all parties are eager to avoid as it would make Washington and Islamabad hugely unpopular with the Pakistanis, who dislike the US presence on their soil, as well the drone attacks that also kill innocent civilians.

Although the secret has been long ousted, the CIA doesn't admit its drone programme.

The secret deal to increase the campaign against Pakistan is indicative that the US sees the tribal regions on the Af-Pak border as a source of many of the attacks being plotted and executed against U.S. and NATO troops.

"When it comes to drones, there's no mission more important right now than hitting targets in the tribal areas, and that's where additional equipment's gone," a US official said.

"It's not the only answer, but it's critical to both homeland security and force protection in Afghanistan," he added.