U.S. Plans Afghan Offensive in Spring

On January 28, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bush administration is preparing a U.S. military offensive in Afghanistan this Spring, that would involve cross-border raids into neighboring Pakistan.

Citing sources familiar with details of the plan, the Tribune reported that the Pentagon is assembling a team of military intelligence officers and special forces that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation. The offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops. A Navy aircraft carrier would also be deployed in the Arabian Sea, the report said.

A source familiar with details of the plan said "This is not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this to be executable, now."

The plan is characterized within the Pentagon as "a big effort" in the next year, the report said. A series of planning orders for the offensive were issued in recent weeks, the Tribune said, and the deadline for key planning factors for the military was Jan. 21.

Thousands of U.S. forces would be involved, the report cited planners as saying. Some of the 10,600 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan would be shifted to the border region as part of regular troop movements, and some would be deployed within Pakistan.