Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is expected to pressure President Bush to halt its recent policy of escalating attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas during their upcoming meeting in New York. The recently elected President Zardari is under increasing pressure to find a more coherent strategy for his government’s terror war amid speculation that US raids were among the causes of Saturday’s bombing.
In an interview with NBC News, President Zardari said his country’s military was in a better position to tackle militants in his own country and that the United States should “give us the intelligence, and we will do the job.” Pakistani ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hassan also called the US operations counterproductive, saying “they are not killing high-value targets, they are killing civilians.”
Much speculation in the aftermath of the attack centered around reports of a CIA presence in the targeted hotel, or more recently the presence of US marines with mysterious steel cases. The US embassy vehemently denies anything unseemly about the US presence in the hotel, which it has frequented for years. Rather, it insists the personnel were only transporting “communications and office equipment” related to last week’s impromptu visit by Admiral Michael Mullen.
The group claiming credit for the blast insists that 250 US marines were at the hotel. A video message with the groups demands, while still being kept confidential, reportedly includes a demand that the Pakistani government halt all cooperation with the United States.
US State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the bombing was reason to “redouble our efforts” in the region, and that he believed the battle would be a “long-term process.” Whether the Pakistani government is willing or able to accept US strikes in the near term, let alone over the long-term, is another matter entirely.