The Bush administration is not satisfied with the quality of information it is getting about terrorist groups operating in Pakistan’s volatile tribal area, a senior US official said on Tuesday.
Despite the shortcomings, the United States will not carry out military strikes on its own inside Pakistan unless President Pervez Musharraf’s government requests direct support, said Dell Dailey, the State Department’s counter-terror chief.
"There’s gaps in intelligence," Dailey said during a breakfast meeting with reporters. "We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there. Not on al-Qaeda. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban."
Dailey, a retired Army lieutenant-general with an extensive background in special operations, said the lack of information made him "uncomfortable". Yet the solution to the problem rests mainly with the Pakistanis, he said, who probably would consider too much US involvement as an unwelcome intrusion.
"We have to be careful conducting operations in a sovereign country, particularly one that’s a friend of ours and one that has given us a lot of support," Dailey said. "The blowback would be pretty serious."
"Folks like the special operations (forces) are pretty darn good, but the potential to be detected is pretty high," Dailey said. "So unless it’s a very, very, very focused effort, it’s pretty tough to be immediately effective."
Pakistan’s new military chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, already has shown he is an aggressive commander, and US officials are confident he will make progress. If Pakistanis ask for help, the United States will provide it, Dailey said.