In Pakistan, a New Approach to Militants
By JANE PERLEZ, New York Times, March 22, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with a sharp escalation of suicide bombing in urban areas, the leaders of Pakistan’s new coalition government say they will negotiate with the militants believed to be orchestrating the attacks, and would use the military only as a last resort.
That talk has alarmed American officials, who fear it will mean a softening stance against the militants just as President Pervez Musharraf, an ally in the war on terror, has given the Bush administration a freer hand to strike at them using unmanned Predator drones.
Many Pakistanis, however, are convinced the surge in suicide bombings — 17 in the first 10 weeks of 2008 — is in direct retaliation for three such Predator strikes since the beginning of the year. The spike in attacks, combined with Mr. Musharraf’s crushing defeat in February elections, has brought a new mood in Pakistan: that there should be a change from his American-backed policies.
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