Over the past week,the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the CIA inside Pakistan,launching attacks against a militant network.
The two missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan,which has been largely carried out by unmanned drone aircraft. Under George W Bush,the US frequently attacked militants from al-Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan,but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mehsud and his followers,who played less of a direct role in attacks on US troops.
Mehsud was identified last year by both American and Pakistani officials as the man who orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Bush included Mehsuds name in a list of militant leaders whom the CIA and American commandos were authorised to capture or kill.
It is unclear why the Obama administration carried out the attacks last Saturday and again on Monday,hitting camps run by Mehsuds network. The Saturday strike was aimed specifically at Mehsud,according to Pakistani and American officials. The Monday strike,officials say,was aimed at a camp run by Hakeem Ulah Mehsud,a top aide to the militant.
According to a Pakistani official,Pakistans intelligence service in recent months gave the US detailed intelligence about Mehsuds whereabouts,but,he said,the US did not act on the information. The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C Holbrooke,the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a telephone interview on Friday,Holbrooke declined to talk about the attacks on Mehsud.