US weighs stepped-up military forays into Pakistan

WASHINGTON - Top Bush administration officials are urging the president to direct U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be more aggressive in pursuing militants into Pakistan on foot as part of a proposed radical shift in its regional counterterrorism strategy, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior intelligence and military aides want President Bush to give American soldiers greater flexibility to operate against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who cross the border from Pakistan's lawless tribal border area to conduct attacks inside Afghanistan, officials say.

The plan could include sending U.S. special forces teams, temporarily assigned to the CIA, into the tribal areas to hit high-value targets, according to an intelligence official with direct knowledge of the plan.

Such a move would be controversial, in part because of Pakistani opposition to U.S. incursions into its territory, and the proposal is not universally supported in Washington. It comes amid growing political instability in Pakistan and concerns that elements of Pakistan's security forces are collaborating with extremists.

Senior members of Bush's national security team met last week at the White House to discuss the recommendations and are now weighing how to proceed, the officials said.

The top agenda item at the meeting of the so-called deputies committee — usually the No. 2 officials at the departments of Defense, and State, plus the intelligence agencies and the National Security Council — was to "review and potentially revise cross-border strategy," a person familiar with the session told the AP.

No votes yet