Pakistan Warns U.S. to back off


Richard Moore

January 12, 2008

Pakistan Warns U.S. on Attacking Al Qaeda on Its Own

WASHINGTON ‹ President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan warned in an interview 
published Friday that any unilateral attacks by the United States against Al 
Qaeda and Taliban fighters in his country¹s tribal areas would be treated as an 

But Mr. Musharraf also left open the possibility of American and Pakistani 
forces working together in broader combined operations to kill or capture senior
Qaeda leaders believed to be hiding in the rugged border area near Afghanistan.

³You¹re talking about Osama bin Laden; any action against him will be free, if 
we know where he is, if we have good intelligence,² Mr. Musharraf told The 
Straits Times of Singapore. ³The methodology of getting him will be discussed 
together, and we¹ll attack the target together.²

Asked in the interview about a proposal under review by President Bush¹s senior 
national security advisers to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence 
Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the 
tribal areas, Mr. Musharraf said he would oppose the conduct of unilateral 
strikes by American forces without Pakistani approval.

³Nobody will come here until we ask them to come, and we haven¹t asked them,² 
Mr. Musharraf said in his first public statements about the proposal, which was 
reported in The New York Times on Sunday.

³Certainly, if they come without our permission, that¹s against the sovereignty 
of Pakistan,² he continued.

³There is a perception in the United States as if what our army cannot do, they 
can do,² he said. ³This is a very wrong perception. I challenge anyone coming 
into our mountains. They would regret that day.²

Mr. Musharraf is not alone or extreme in this view. An array of experts, 
including Pakistani military analysts and American counterterrorism specialists,
say that United States troops would be seen as an invasion force by the 
Pakistani public. They argue that American raids would fail and increase public 
support for militants, who say they are trying to free Pakistan from American 

When asked Friday about expanded covert operations in the tribal areas, American
officials publicly deferred to Mr. Musharraf and his top advisers.

³Certainly anything that the United States has done and anything the United 
States will do will be in full cooperation with the Pakistani government,² said 
a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey.

But senior military and intelligence officials say privately they are eager to 
gain at least tacit approval from Pakistan to loosen restrictions on the C.I.A.,
allowing operations against selected targets in the Federally Administered 
Tribal Areas, as these unruly hinterlands are called.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on 
Friday that because extremists use sanctuaries in the tribal areas to mount 
attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the region ³continues to be of grave 
concern to us, both in the near term and the long term.² Admiral Mullen added 
that ³continued pressure there will have to be brought.²

Mr. Musharraf also bristled at the recent suggestion of Senator Hillary Rodham 
Clinton, Democrat of New York, that Pakistan¹s nuclear stockpile be placed under
joint American-British oversight to ensure its safekeeping.

³This is an intrusion into our privacy, into our sensitivity,² Mr. Musharraf 
said. ³The whole nation sees the nuclear weapon as the guarantee of our security
against all regional threats.²

American officials and legislators say that they believe the arsenal is safe at 
the moment and that they accept Pakistani assurances that security is vastly 

³They have a very strong, multilayered security for their nuclear weapons,² 
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said in a telephone 
interview on Friday from Madrid after spending two days in Pakistan this week. 
³They¹ve gone out of their way to imagine every conceivable way how someone 
would strike at their nuclear weapons.²

In the interview, Mr. Musharraf defended his government¹s investigation into the
assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27, which critics have said was 
compromised from the start after the authorities hosed down the crime scene, 
washing away potentially important evidence.

Mr. Musharraf said that forensic experts, including specialists from Scotland 
Yard, are studying a flood of photographs of the scene taken by people with 
cellphone cameras. While no autopsy was performed, Mr. Musharraf said that 
hospital technicians took an X-ray of Ms. Bhutto¹s wounded skull, which 
investigators are reviewing.

David Rohde contributed reporting from New York.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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