The decision to strike Miran Shah was made at a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Obama two weeks ago and was intended to “send a signal” that the United States would no longer tolerate a safe haven for the most lethal enemy of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, or Pakistan’s backing for it, said one of several U.S. officials who spoke about internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
The strikes were made possible by focusing intelligence collection to “allow us to pursue certain priorities,” the official said. The senior Haqqani figure, Janbaz Zadran, was selected along with other targets to “demonstrate how seriously we take the Miran Shah” threat.
Military options debated at the Sept. 29 meeting were set aside for now, officials said, including the possibility of a ground operation against Haqqani leaders similar to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. Although the administration has left the raid option on the table, the potential negatives of such an operation — including the possible collapse of Pakistan’s military leadership and civilian government — are seen as far outweighing its benefits.
Even as it cracks down on the Haqqani network, the White House has authorized more intensive reconciliation efforts with its leaders and those of other Afghan insurgent groups, leaving open a track initiated in August when U.S. officials met in a Persian Gulf kingdom with Ibrahim Haqqani, the brother of the group’s patriarch. The meeting was arranged by Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who also attended.
Marc Grossman, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, left Sept. 30 on an extended trip to the broader South and Central Asian region in hopes of persuading governments there, including China, to join and support an international reconciliation effort.
With major international conferences on the war scheduled for Nov. 2 in Istanbul and Dec. 5 in Bonn, Germany, “what we want to do is provide an international basis of support for a political outcome in Afghanistan” that will match the military timeline adopted by NATO last November, the administration official said.
There has been widespread speculation that insurgent representatives may attend on the margins of either or both meetings, although “I wouldn’t hazard a prediction at this point,” the official said.