Leaving aside the debatable effectiveness of missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, it is apparent that Bush, McCain, and Obama all agree they are necessary. McCain criticized Obama for advocating such strikes and "telegraphing his punches," although McCain himself advocated them a year earlier. Is that straight talk??
By Ishtiaq Mahsud
October 27, 2008 | Associated Press
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – A suspected U.S. missile strike on the house of a Taliban commander inside Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan killed up to 20 people Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The reported strike occurred in the South Waziristan region, part of Pakistan's wild border zone that is considered a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
Missile strikes into Pakistan's border region have escalated sharply amid complaints from American commanders that Pakistani forces are not putting enough pressure on militant strongholds on their territory.
U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least a dozen strikes since August. The United States rarely confirms or denies involvement.
Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media on the record, said the targeted house in Mandata Raghzai village belonged to a lieutenant of local Taliban chief Maulvi Nazir.
The officials, citing reports from agents and informers in the area, said militants cordoned off the scene. The identities of the 20 bodies pulled from the rubble were not immediately known, they said.
The missile strikes have killed at least two senior al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan this year.
However, it has also put strain on the country's seven-year alliance with the U.S. in its war on terror, especially since stalwart U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf stepped down as Pakistan's army chief and president.
Pakistan's new leaders have protested the missile strikes — as well as a highly unusual raid by helicopter-borne commandos in September — as unacceptable violations of their sovereignty.
The attacks only fuel the militancy destabilizing Pakistan and undermining the nuclear-armed nation's already faltering economy, they argue.
Pakistani troops are battling militants in two areas of the country's troubled northwest. In the Bajur region, for instance, it claims to have killed some 1,500 suspected insurgents in a two-month offensive.
The operations have drawn U.S. praise.
Yet many Pakistani are weary of a war they believe is being fought at America's behest and the government has offered to negotiate with any militant group willing to renounced violence, regardless of their ideology.
"There is an increasing realization that the use of force alone cannot yield the desired results," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a gathering of Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders.
The meeting in Islamabad was part of a dialogue process begun last year in hopes that it could ease strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both crucial allies of the U.S.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly accused Pakistan, which backed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, of secretly continuing to aid the militants as a way to exert influence over its poorer neighbor.
Pakistan denies the charge. However, it has also seized on recent indications that Afghanistan's government is also seeking talks with the Taliban to press for compromise.
Talks should be open to "sons of the soil willing to forsake the path of violence. With a patient air, we must listen to them," Qureshi said. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan "need a healing touch," he said.
Associated Press writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar.