On January 13, a CIA-operated unmanned Predator aircraft launched a missile attack on a small Pakistani village near the Afghan border. The target was al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri (BBC), who reportedly survived the attack, although at least four al-Qaeda operatives were killed along with eighteen civilians (Daily Times). The attack is an example of the sort of targeted killings, described in a CFR Background Q&A, that have become increasingly common in the so-called war on terror.
Less than a week later, a new tape from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was broadcast by al-Jazeera and quickly authenticated by the CIA, marking the first time in a year the fugitive terrorist chief had surfaced. His statement, the full text of which is available from the Associated Press, repeated threats to attack the United States and asserted al-Qaeda'sgrowing strength in Iraq and around the world. The following day an audio tape from Zawahiri (PDF) surfaced, though the date of recording was unclear.
These events highlight the importance of counterterrorism efforts in South Asia and as a CFR Background Q&A explains, Pakistan remains a haven for terrorists. On January 18,Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a CFR audience his nation's partnership with the United States is "central to building peace, stability and development in this important region." But the angry protests (AP) and scathing news reports that followed the January 13 missile attack underscore the difficulties Aziz and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are facing when trying to cooperate with the United States. The Economist outlines the myriad challenges facing Pakistan's leadership, while the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland writes, "Washington needs to hold Musharraf's feet to the fire on al-Qaeda and the Taliban."