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US planning anti-Osama offensive inside Pakistan

January 29, 2004 18:09 IST

The US is planning a military offensive 'that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network', says the Chicago Tribune quoting military sources.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the 'spring offensive', the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region.

According to the Tribune, US Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, which is likely to involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers, ground troops and the deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea.

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Initially slotted for 2005, it was advanced apparently in response to the recent assassination attempts on Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf, attributed to the Al Qaeda, and the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the sources told the paper.

While Musharraf has publicly dismissed the possibility of unilateral US action on Pakistani soil, the paper quoted a military source in Washington as saying, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."

'Thousands of US forces would be involved, as well as Pakistani troops. Some of the 10,600 US troops now in Afghanistan would be shifted to the border region as part of regular troop movements; some would be deployed within Pakistan," the paper quoted the planners of the operation as saying.

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