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Adviser says Al Qaeda at vulnerable stage

New York Times / July 30, 2011

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ASPEN, Colo. - President Obama’s top adviser on Pakistan said yesterday that the United States had six months to deliver “a knock-out blow’’ to Al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan while the group was still in turmoil after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The adviser, Douglas E. Lute, a deputy national security adviser, said the United States needed to increase covert action in Pakistan to take advantage of the AL Qaeda disarray.

His comment was widely interpreted to refer to drone strikes, although he did not refer to the operations by name.

The comments by Lute were the most specific public description of the Obama administration’s military strategy against Al Qaeda’s surviving leadership since bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1.

Lute took sharp issue with remarks made Thursday by Dennis Blair, who was forced to resign last year as director of national intelligence. Blair said that the United States should halt all drone strikes carried out by the CIA in Pakistan’s tribal areas unless they were conducted in cooperation with the Pakistani government.

Blair said the unilateral U.S. strikes had worsened the administration’s relationship with Islamabad. He suggested giving Pakistan more say in what targets the drones hit and when, despite Pakistan’s record of tipping off militants when it gets advance word of US action.

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