US missiles from unmanned drones have eliminated about half of 20 "high-value" Al-Qaeda and other extremist targets along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Citing unnamed US military and intelligence officials, the newspaper said the strikes and Pakistan's ongoing military offensive in the Swat Valley have unsettled Al-Qaeda and its relative invulnerability in Pakistani mountain sanctuaries. The report did not identify who or what the "high-value" targets were.
Although Al-Qaeda remains "a serious, potent threat," the paper quotes a US counterterrorism official as saying, "they've suffered some serious losses and seem to be feeling a heightened sense of anxiety - and that's not a bad thing at all."
A senior military official said that in the current situation, Al-Qaeda will have to undertake more open communication on cellphones and computers, even if only to gather information on the situation in the region.
"Then they become more visible," the official is quoted as saying.
But it remains unclear whether US intelligence and Pakistani ground forces can capitalize on such opportunities before they vanish, The Post said.
Opportunities to intercept al-Qaeda communications or to take advantage of extremist movements are fleeting, the report points out.
The Predator attacks have also killed civilians, stoking anti-American attitudes in Pakistan that inhibit cooperation between Islamabad and Washington, the report said.
"The need to establish a trusting, mutually beneficial US-Pakistan partnership is pressing, yet the ability to do so is severely challenged by current events," Army General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, wrote in a secret assessment on May 27, the paper said.