Friday, August 7, 2009

Anti-loadshedding protests rising in NWFP

PESHAWAR: The activists of Pasban Friday staged a protest demonstration against unscheduled loadshedding and police firing at protesters in which one person was killed.

Led by provincial secretary general of the organisation Abdur Rahmand, vice-president Syed Ashfaq Bacha and others, the protesters gathered outside the Peshawar Press Club.

They were chanting slogans and holding placards inscribed with slogans against the government, Wapda authorities and police.

The speakers on the occasion criticised the government for its failure in providing basic amenities to the people. They said unannounced loadshedding had made life miserable for the people.

And when the people took to street to express their anguish over the non-availability of electricity, the police showered bullets on them, they added.

The speakers said that the killing of a protester on Kohat road by police was not the first incident of its nature. Two protesters were killed in the hometown of Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti a few days ago, they added.

The protestors asked the government to immediately lodge cases against the policemen responsible for the ugly incident and award them an exemplary punishment.

Meanwhile, the students of Bara, Khyber Agency, also staged a protest demonstration here against the excessive power outages and low voltage.

They gathered outside Peshawar Press Club under the aegis of Bara Welfare Student Union, the students bitterly criticised the government and Wapda authorities for power supply cuts.

The students urged the governor and the political administration of Khyber Agency to take prompt steps for ridding them of the menace of loadshedding.

Pakistani army kill 2 militants, arrest 24 in NW operations

Pakistan's security forces killed two militants and apprehended at least 24 others in the continued search and clearance operations with the support of local lashkars in northwest Pakistan's Swat and Malakand districts during the last 24 hours, the army said Friday.

The army said in a daily update that two soldiers of the security forces were injured during exchange of fire with militants in the operations conducted in Swat. They also recovered some weapons of the militants, the statement said.

In nearby Buner, a police officer said Friday that at least 50 extremists have surrendered themselves to police. A suicide bomber is also among those surrendered.

Over 1,600 militants have been killed since Pakistani security forces launched the military operation against Taliban militants late April after militants in early April entered the Buner district from the neighboring Swat district and refused to vacate the area despite their pledge to do so.

Another chapter of terrorism closed

Editorial: Daily Times

Baitullah Mehsud, the fearsome top leader of the self-styled Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, is reportedly dead, killed in last Tuesday’s Predator strike. Earlier reports had suggested that the attack had claimed his wife. There is need for further confirmation but if the report is correct then the hit is a big positive for the ongoing counterinsurgency and terrorism operations. Consider.

Mehsud had emerged as the biggest menace for Pakistan attacking soft and hard targets in the tribal areas as well as across Pakistan. He had become the main plank between Al Qaeda and the several sectarian and terrorist groups within Pakistan drawing cadres from all of them and forging them into a well-knit terrorist force. He considered himself safe in the craggy mountain redoubts of South Waziristan and so far all attempts to get to him through ground extraction operations had failed. In the final analysis, he had become the centre of gravity which needed to be hit because he managed from that central position to expand the zone of irregular war, a combination of insurgency and terrorism, and forced the security forces to fight several small wars on the periphery.

His death therefore sends a clear signal to the Taliban, and whoever his successor might be, that the heat and din of war can reach their headquarters. Also, that no matter how rough and difficult the terrain, superior technology will be used to blunt the terrorists’ advantage. Wherever it is difficult to execute ground operations, air power can be used to take out even mobile targets.

The other setback would be the need for the Taliban to find someone to replace Mehsud. That they will be able to do but it will take time and it will be some time before that person will be able to get a handle on things. Going by reports of how Mehsud dealt with his second-string leaders, we know that he never allowed any of his lieutenants to grow too big. Qari Hussain, who trained and prepared suicide bombers for the TTP, had to mend fences with Mehsud when the Qari overstepped his brief and attacked the house of Khyber Agency’s political agent in Tank. Mehsud knew that in the game that he was playing, he could not afford to let anyone grow beyond a certain point. But now that he is reported dead, this could prove a problem for his successor. In fact, this could even lead to a battle for succession and a splintering of TTP. If the TTP falls apart into various factions, its ability to mount coordinated attacks could suffer. That would make it easier for the security forces to pre-empt future insurgent and terrorist attacks.

Having said this, however, we should not consider this as the beginning of the end of this menace. There is every possibility that the Taliban and their sleeper cells will mount a string of attacks across Pakistan to avenge Mehsud’s killing. So, before it begins to get better, it could get worse. The government should be alive to this fact. Secondly, Mehsud became big in the way that he did because Al Qaeda needed to prop up someone to act as go-between itself and the several extremist groups. With Mehsud gone, Al Qaeda will be looking for the right person to replace him and is very likely to throw its weight and resources behind that person. Similarly, given that Mehsud did get taken out by a drone despite much precaution, the Taliban are likely to become more cautious in avoiding a similar fate for their next leader.

Nonetheless, the operation has notched a big success and it must be looked at as such. It also disproves the thesis in Pakistan that Mehsud was operating at the behest of a US-India combine because those countries want to dismember Pakistan. If anything, it now points to greater intelligence and military cooperation between Pakistan and the US which is the only way the two sides can fight this war. Also, Pakistan had long insisted that it cannot take care of groups that are sustaining the insurgency in Afghanistan because it has to deal with the menace of Mehsud. Islamabad will now have to revisit that argument. With elections coming up in Afghanistan, the US would want Pakistan to help it maintain security in Afghanistan by ensuring, as far as Pakistan can, that groups operating from the Pakistani soil are neutralised.

Baitullah Mehsud’s Crimes

Following is a timeline of major attacks carried out in different cities of Pakistan and claimed by Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Feb 5 - At least 24 people are killed in a suspected suicide bombing near Shia mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Feb 20 - Suicide bomber kills 27 people and wounds 65 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia Muslim killed a day earlier in Dera Ismail Khan.
Mar 3 - Gunmen attack a bus carrying Sri Lanka’s cricket team outside a Lahore stadium, killing seven people, including six policemen and a driver, and wounding six of the cricketers and a British coach.
Mar 27 - A suicide bomber kills 37 people when he blows himself up in a crowded mosque near the Afghan border. Among the dead are 14 policemen and paramilitary soldiers.
Mar 30 - Militants armed with guns and grenades storm a police training centre in Lahore killing eight recruits, wounding scores and holding off police and troops for eight hours. The attack is claimed by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Four militants are killed and three arrested.
Apr 5 - A suicide bomber blows himself up in a religious centre for minority Shia Muslims in Chakwal. At least 17 people are killed and about 11 seriously wounded. The attack comes a day after a suicide attack in Islamabad killed eight paramilitary soldiers.
Apr 15 - A suicide car-bomber blows himself up at a security post in the northwest, killing nine policemen and three civilians.
Apr 18 - A suicide car-bomber rams a military convoy, killing 25 soldiers and police and two passers-by near Kohat.
Apr 25 - Twelve children who mistake a bomb for a toy are killed when it explodes as they play with it in the Low Dir. Authorities say it is unclear whether the incident is an “act of terrorism” or an accident.
May 11 - Ten people are killed and more than a dozen wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a security check post near Peshawar.
May 16 - Car packed with mortar bombs blows up in Peshawar, killing 11 people, including four children passing in a school bus.
May 27 - Gunmen attack ISI regional office in Lahore, setting off a car-bomb that killed at least 24 people.
May 28 - Two bombs explode in a market in Peshawar, killing six people.
June 5 - A suicide bomber killed around 40 people at a mosque as US special envoy Richard Holbrooke consulted the country’s leaders on what needs to be done once the army eliminates the Taliban in Swat valley.
June 9 - Militants attack the Pearl Continental Hotel, which is popular with foreigners, in Peshawar with guns and a truck bomb killing five people including a UN worker.
Sep 20 - Around 52 people are killed and more than 100 are wounded in suicide attack at Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
Aug 21 - More than 70 people lose their lives while around 80 are injured in double suicide strike outside the main entrance of PAF Wah.
Mar 11 - At least 26 persons are killed with injuries to 175 others as suicide attackers target the provincial headquarters of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) building.
Dec 27 - PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in an attack outside Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi. Around 20 others have also been killed with injuries to many others.
Oct 18 - The rally, with around a million people to welcome PPP leader Benazir Bhutto after her triumphant return back home, is attacked by two suicide bombers near Karsaz in Karachi. The deadly attack results in death of more than 150 people while around 200 are injured.

Mehsud’s group should lay down arms: Bilour

LAHORE: The accomplices of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud should lay down their weapons, senior NWFP Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour told a private TV channel on Friday. Bilour said the TTP does not have a leader as capable as Mehsud, the channel reported, adding that the Taliban were already divided, and a division would emerge within the militia after the death of their leader. He said it was now the beginning of the downward journey for the TTP. The minister said certain activities being carried out in the name of Islam for the last 25 years were actually un-Islamic. daily times monitor

Pakistan to be safer if Mehsud killed: US

WASHINGTON: The White House on Friday said that Pakistan would be safer if Taliban commander was killed.

The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, however, said, ‘there seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead.’

Mr Gibbs added that Mehsud killed scores of innocent men, women and children and was suspected of being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan.

‘If he is dead, without a doubt, the people of Pakistan will be safer as a result.’

President Barack Obama was being regularly updated on the situation in Islamabad, officials said. Mehsud was probably dead but they were awaiting 100 per cent confirmation to verify reports of his death.

At the State Department, spokesman Robert Wood also said the United States and its allies were engaged in a ‘long-term struggle against violent extremism.’

Asked at the regular briefing, how important Mehsud was considered in the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban in the region, Mr Wood said: ‘Mehsud has been responsible for a number of atrocious terrorist attacks against people from around the world, frankly.’

‘And we will continue to work with other countries around the world to fight the scourge of terrorism.’

Is Pakistan's Taliban Chief Dead?

American and Pakistani officials say it looked more and more likely that the man was Baitullah Mehsud, who had a $5-million bounty on his head. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told reporters in Islamabad on Friday Aug. 7 that, "According to my intelligence information, the news is correct. We are trying to get on the ground verification to be 100% sure. But according to my information, he has been taken out." Local Pakistani media, citing "tribal sources" in South Waziristan,�are reporting that Mehsud's funeral prayers had been held and that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's shura, or council, was meeting today to choose Mehsud's successor. (See pictures of the battle against the Taliban.)

It may be days, or weeks, before confirmation is obtained. Hellfire strikes often obliterate targets, leaving little for investigators to work with. Pakistani officials are reportedly trying to collect material evidence, but U.S. intelligence officials will also be paying close attention to chatter on the Taliban's communication channels. "Taking Mehsud off the battlefield would be a major victory," says a U.S. counterterrorism official. "He has American blood on his hands with attacks on our forces in Afghanistan. This would also affirm the effectiveness of our government's counterterrorism policies." (Read "Pakistan Takes On Taliban Leader Mehsud.")

If confirmed, Mehsud's death would bring to a dramatic end a short but terrifying career. Over the past two years, Mehsud, who is believed to be about 35, emerged from near-obscurity to claim a place in a hall of infamy along with the Saudi Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda (who are still at large) and the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed while leading the radical insurgency in Iraq. Cagey, dogged and charismatic, Mehsud had a knack for uniting disparate factions around a common cause; he transformed the badlands of South Waziristan into the most important redoubt for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. He denied involvement in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but he was not unhappy about it: the Pakistani government produced an alleged message from him congratulating the perpetrators: "Fantastic job. Very brave boys, the ones who killed her."

With a reported 20,000 militants at his command, Mehsud was believed to have been the architect of the 2008 bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel, the mastermind behind a terrorist cell uncovered in Barcelona that same year and the dispatcher of numerous suicide bombers in South Asia. Earlier this year, he threatened a massive terrorist attack on Washington that would "amaze everyone in the world." (Read "Islamabad After the Marriott Bombing: The Baghdad Effect.")

An uneducated Pashtun tribesman from a modest clan, Mehsud reportedly came from a family that made their living driving trucks. Though given to boasting about his grand plans for inflicting mass murder, Mehsud was also cautious. He shunned photographers — there are no definitive portraits — traveled in convoys protected by armed guards and hopped between safe houses. Despite his bellicose rhetoric, Mehsud was also described as baby-faced and jocular in person.

As a teen, Mehsud served as a Taliban fighter against the Soviets in the battle for Afghanistan, but first rose to prominence as a supporter of Abdullah Mehsud (no relation), a one-legged militant imprisoned at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, soon after the 9/11 terror attacks. Baitullah Mehsud quickly leapfrogged his boss, and his ascension up the jihadi ladder was made apparent in 2005, when — swathed in a black cloth to shield his face — he negotiated the public signing of a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani government. (Read "Why Pakistan Balks at the U.S. Afghanistan Offensive.")

Indeed, under the cover afforded by the agreement, Mehsud was once touted by a Pakistani Army official as a "good Taliban." He used that goodwill to quickly tighten his grip on Waziristan, converting the rugged region into a haven where militant groups could freely operate camps and training facilities. The assassination of Bhutto and subsequent attacks attributed to Mehsud turned him into a prime target of the Pakistani government. In June 2009, the governor of the North-West Frontier Province denounced Mehsud as "the root cause of all evils" as the army launched a "full-fledged" military operation to eliminate the Taliban leader. CIA-operated drones also went to work, attacking sites associated with Mehsud. On Wednesday, one of their missiles may have found its mark.

Plan chalked out for Malakand uplift

PESHAWAR: The (PUKHTUNKHWA)Frontier government has worked out a five-year plan to be placed before the upcoming ministerial meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan, for social uplift and economic revival of the Malakand region.

The proposed ‘Malakand Comprehensive Development Strategy’ includes long- and short-term initiatives in four key areas, governance and security, social sector, infrastructure and economic management, an official told Dawn.

A senior official of the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA), which prepared the plan, said the project cost was yet to be calculated. ‘Nobody has done damage assessment; thus, the cost cannot be estimated at this stage,’ he said, explaining that the proposed plan only identified strategic areas and possible interventions.

Pakistan will place the proposed strategy before the Friends of Democratic Pakistan’s second ministerial meeting scheduled for Aug 25 in Istanbul. Referring to implementation of the plan, the official said its execution would be coordinated by a high-level committee supported by PaRRSA.

The committee would monitor expenditure on priority measures and ensure that the strategic priorities were reflected in development plans of the Malakand region, the official said.

Governance and Security are the topmost priority areas identified in the proposed strategy.

Introduction of digital revenue records system, revival of magistracy-based administrative system, construction of police infrastructure, procuring equipment, vehicles and ammunition, raising an elite force and capacity building of the police force are some of the proposed interventions in the two strategic areas.

Likewise, the official said, education, health, social protection and local development were the key areas covered under the social sectors component of the strategy.

Priority measures in the social sector included increasing expenditure on female teachers’ incentives, stipends for poor and girls’ students, provision of free textbooks, training of teachers, construction and rehabilitation of schools, vocational training, improvement of healthcare facilities, establishment of shelter homes and local development programmes, the official said.

On infrastructure component of the strategy, the official said, major emphasis had been given to rehabilitation of the existing roads and bridges, besides expanding the road network.

Similarly construction of an expressway from Rashakai to Mingora, maintenance and construction work on small dams and water channels, flood protection works and reconstruction and rehabilitation of government buildings in Malakand have been proposed. Most of the people in Malakand relied on agriculture and horticulture, said the official, adding the strategy envisaged a number of priority measures, including land development, promotion of water harvesting and soil conservation.

He said the plan included upgrading existing and establishment of new small and medium enterprises and promotion of local tourism, and cottage and mineral industries.

Clinton urges South Africa to push political and economic reform in Zimbabwe

PRETORIA, South Africa — While praising South Africa as a leading nation the United States hopes to work with in Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday urged government officials in Pretoria to press for reform in neighboring Zimbabwe.

On the second leg of a seven-nation African tour, Clinton met with South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to make the case for greater pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to comply with a power-sharing agreement reached with a political rival.

At a news conference following their meeting, Clinton said the chaos just across its northern border in Zimbabwe was a crisis for South Africa. Decades of Mugabe's authoritarian rule have seen a once-prosperous country become an economic shambles. Inflation once hit 500 billion percent, a world record, though the abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar in favor of the U.S. and South African currencies has seen inflation ease in recent months.

"South Africa has 3 million refugees from Zimbabwe and every one of those refugees represents a failure of the Zimbabwean government to care for its own people and a burden that South Africa has to bear," Clinton said. "South Africa is working toward a complete fulfillment of the agreement that was reached to establish the coalition government."

Former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister in March under the pact. He has accused Mugabe of stalling on its implementation. The two had been bitter enemies but accepted the deal under heavy international pressure.

Nkoana-Mashabane said at the news conference that she was present when South African President Jacob Zuma met earlier this week in Johannesburg with Tsvangirai. She said Tsvangirai "confirmed that they are moving forward but that he would want us to encourage ... that they move a little bit faster." She said South Africa and the United States would work together to help Zimbabweans.

Nkoana-Mashabane cited the recent easing of restrictions on foreign media that has allowed CNN and the BBC to resume broadcasting from Zimbabwe as a sign of progress. Comparing Zimbabwe's coalition to an arranged marriage, she said, "Over time you get used to it and feel that it's better than no marriage."

Zuma had emerged from his meeting with Tsvangirai promising to talk with Mugabe about Tsvangirai's concerns, which include continued harassment of members of Tsvangirai's political party by hard-liners in Mugabe's party.

Zuma's predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was the main broker of the deal that brought Tsvangirai into the government in March, and continues to oversee it on behalf of the southern African bloc. Zuma, like Mbeki, has said the coalition is the only way forward.

Thursday, Clinton said more had to be done to "mitigate the negative effects of the continuing presidency of President Mugabe." Clinton also said she wanted South Africa's perspective on how to "strengthen the reform movement inside Zimbabwe and alleviate the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe."

South Africa had resisted similar U.S. appeals to take a tough line with Zimbabwe during the Bush administration. But U.S. officials said they hoped the new South African government, in place several months fewer than the Obama administration, would adopt a more cooperative stance.

Friday, Clinton and Nkoana-Mashabane spoke of a new era in U.S.-South African relations, with the launching of bilateral committees dedicated to improving economic and political cooperation.

Clinton said the Obama administration wants Africa to be a high foreign policy priority, and would rely on "the central leadership role that South Africa plays."

Nkoana-Mashabane, responding to a reporter's question, denied that there had been a "chill" in relations during the eight years of the Bush administration. But she said there was room for better coordination, and the "zeal and the passion" that Clinton brings would help in the effort to improve relations.

Wang says Pak, China have strong friendship bonds

KARACHI: Pakistan and China have strong bonds of friendship and no force on the face of earth can weaken this relationship.

This was stated by Rear Admiral Wang Shi Chen, Commander Chinese Escorting Fleet, in an interview during his visit to Headquarters Commander Karachi, here Friday.

An ISPR (Navy) press release issued here pointed out that Admiral said that China strongly opposes all terrorists activities. Like Pakistan, China is also a victim of terrorism and we would put in all out efforts to eliminate this menace in its all forms and manifestations.

Commenting on F 22 P Frigates he said, `All the weaponry, equipment and sensors fitted onboard these ships are much advanced and reliable and even better than those fitted on our own ships'.

He said that Pakistan and Chinese Navies are all set to conduct a joint maritime exercise commencing from August 8.

Joint Staff meeting held in this connection was very successful in which procedures and operation plans were chalked out, it was further stated.

Earlier, Admiral Wang called on Commander Karachi, Vice Admiral Saleem Ahmed Meenai, Commander Coast, Vice Admiral Muhammad Shafi, and Commander Logistics, Vice Admiral Azher Shamim.

During the meetings matters of common interest came under discussion.

Obama's Battle Against Terrorism To Go Beyond Bombs and Bullets

The U.S. government must fundamentally redefine the struggle against terrorism, replacing the "war on terror" with a campaign combining all facets of national power to defeat the enemy, John O. Brennan, President Obama's senior counterterrorism adviser, said Wednesday.

Previewing what aides said will be the administration's most comprehensive statement to date on its long-term strategy to defeat al-Qaeda and other violent extremists worldwide, Brennan said in an interview that the United States will maintain "unrelenting" pressure on terrorist havens, including those near the Afghan-Pakistani border, in Yemen and in Somalia.

However, Washington must couple the military strikes that have depleted al-Qaeda's middle ranks with more sustained use of economic, diplomatic and cultural levers to diminish Islamist radicalization, he said, exercising "soft power" in ways that President George W. Bush came to embrace but had trouble carrying out.

"It needs to be much more than a kinetic effort, an intelligence, law enforcement effort. It has to be much more comprehensive," said Brennan, who will address the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday. "This is not a 'war on terror.' . . . We cannot let the terror prism guide how we're going to interact and be involved in different parts of the world."

Calmer Discussion
The U.S. shift in tone comes as Obama national security officials, six months after taking office, are seeking to maintain a fragile bipartisan consensus over continuing Bush-era policies that damaged al-Qaeda while taking advantage of changed political circumstances at home and perceptions abroad.

While Obama campaigned on similar themes -- and a White House budget office memo in March notably retired the "global war on terror" moniker -- aides now seem to be trying to fill in the blanks, defining the threat and U.S. goals and challenges.

The time has come to "lower the temperature of the discourse . . . and soberly discuss what steps we want to take and not take," said Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the U.S. clearinghouse for analyzing terrorism threats. "What we've learned over the last several years is, nuance is important here."

A Holistic Approach
U.S. officials are advancing American ideals -- promoting political participation and economic development -- and attacking the factors that breed terrorism, Brennan said.

"We are not saying that poverty causes terrorism, or disenfranchisement causes terrorism, but we can't mistake there are certain phenomena that contribute to it," he said. "Terrorism needs to be fought against and certainly delegitimized or attacked, but some of the underlying grievances that might in fact lead individuals astray to terrorism cannot be ignored."

Brennan is in some respects an intriguing choice to deliver the new message. A former career CIA analyst, Saudi Arabia station chief, and chief of staff to former director George J. Tenet, he was heavily involved in CIA counterterrorism operations for most of his 25-year career, helping stand up the NCTC under Bush before retiring in 2004. After liberal critics questioned Brennan's role in post-9/11 detention and interrogation policies, he withdrew from consideration as CIA chief and Obama moved him to the White House.

Brennan's "Jesuit-like" demeanor has made him a key bridge between administrations, said David Cohen, a CIA veteran and now New York Police Department counterterrorism official.

Brennan has also brought perspective to internal debates over intelligence policy in the Obama White House, where few senior officials have exposure to the world of spycraft, intelligence officials said. Brennan is known to have opposed declassifying Bush administration legal opinions that authorized harsh CIA interrogations, though the Obama White House acted contrary to his advice.

"John understands how intelligence and policy support one another -- that's a major asset," said CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, whom Obama subsequently named. "He is a vital link between the CIA and the NSC."

"His portfolio is growing, not shrinking," said Mark Lippert, a longtime Obama foreign policy aide and now chief of staff for the National Security Council, which is run by Brennan's boss, national security adviser James L. Jones. Brennan's role spans terrorism, cybersecurity, swine flu and some intelligence matters. "He has the president's trust. . . . Folks from all parts of the policy and intelligence community respect him," Lippert said.

Even as the Obama administration softens U.S. rhetoric, it continues a controversial policy of attacking suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban safe houses inside Pakistan's autonomous tribal region. A missile apparently launched by CIA Predator drone struck a house in Pakistan on Wednesday, killing a woman identified as the wife of Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander linked to the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Pressuring Al-Qaeda
Unmanned drones have struck targets in Pakistan at least 31 times this year, killing more than 360 people, according to a tally by the Web site the Long War Journal. Such attacks are opposed by some prominent Defense officials who say the strikes are counterproductive because they fuel anti-Western sentiment in Pakistan.

Brennan, who declined to comment on CIA operations in the region, acknowledged internal disagreements but said that al-Qaeda must continue to be pressured.

"It's important to maintain the offensive against what are clearly terrorist training facilities and camps, and we're working closely with the Afghanistan and Pakistan governments to root out these facilities," he said. At the same time, the use of lethal force must be "very focused, and ensure that we are not incurring any type of collateral damage."