But the idea, which U.S. officials say comes up every couple of months, has been consistently rejected because the White House believes the chance of successfully rooting out the deadly Haqqani network would not be worth the intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan that inevitably would ensue.
Members of the Haqqani tribe have been targeted by pilotless U.S. drone aircraft, but sending American and Afghan troops into Pakistan would be a serious escalation of the hunt for terrorists and could potentially be the final straw for Pakistan, which already is angered over what it sees as U.S. violations of its sovereignty.
The al-Qaida-allied Haqqani tribe runs a mafia-like smuggling operation and occasionally turns to terrorism with the aim of controlling its territory in eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqanis use Pakistani towns to plan, train and arm themselves with guns and explosives, cross into Afghanistan to attack NATO and Afghan forces, then retreat back across the border to safety.
The latest round of debate over whether to launch clandestine special operations raids into Pakistan against the Haqqanis came after the June 1 car bombing of Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan that injured up to 100 U.S. and Afghan soldiers, according to three current and two former U.S. officials who were briefed on the discussions. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the still-evolving debates.
Also, Pentagon spokesman George Little pointed to a lakeside hotel bombing outside Kabul Friday — which killed 18 people — as the latest example of a Haqqani attack that targets Afghan civilians.
The officials who were briefed told the AP that recent discussions of clandestine ground attacks have included Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, as well as top CIA and special operations officials.
Allen’s spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, said Allen “has not and does not intend to push for a cross-border operation.”
The White House and the CIA declined to comment.
Little said the U.S. was still focused on U.S.-Pakistan cooperation.
“The key is to work together with Pakistan to find ways of fighting terrorists who threaten both the United States and Pakistan, including along the Afghan-Pakistan border, where extremists continue to plot attacks against coalition forces and innocent civilians,” he said.