Bret Baier: There are a few points about the confirmation of a "spring offensive." Senior Defense officials tell us that they want to "get the word out to get the enemy moving and to flush them out." According to officials, the U.S. military expects that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters will "step up" their activities once the snow thaws in the mountains. They know this, because it was that way last spring. So they want the word out that U.S. troops are going to be doing their own "spring offensive."
Secondly, according to several officials, Central Command is tired of not hearing about any activities in Afghanistan. The 11,000+ soldiers there are "very busy" almost everyday, and it is NOT talked about or covered by the media. Iraq has been trumping everything.
The issue of going into Pakistan is obviously very sensitive. But there are indications that more Special Ops troops will be working inside Pakistani territory in the hunt for top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Usama bin Laden. There already have been small numbers of U.S. Special Ops troops inside the tribal areas, working with Pakistani forces in that hunt, but everything has been very covert for fear of causing additional problems for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has survived two assassination attempts in the past two months.
Here's what General John Abizaid, the commander of Centcom said about the spring offensive today:
Asked whether U.S. forces would enter Pakistan, Abizaid did not answer directly, saying: "We'll help him (Musharraf) where he wants help. And we have shared interests." Musharraf last week publicly ruled out allowing U.S. troops to search for bin Laden on Pakistan's side of the border.
"Pakistan has done more for the United States in the direct fight against al Qaeda than any other country that I know of," Abizaid said.
"I regard President Musharraf as a firm ally in the war against terror," Abizaid added.
"He is moving against those that he knows...are extremist. It's a battle of ideas as much as it is a military battle. And he's engaged in that," Abizaid said.
"And we've got to help him fight that battle. In Saudi Arabia, the same thing is taking place. And you see day after day an increase in military operations and terrorist operations in Saudi Arabia."
Don't be surprised to see a major push in the Afghan/Pakistan border region in coming weeks. The U.S. will NOT hide that. The administration wants everyone to realize that the hunt for bin Laden is happening every day, and the military wants Afghanistan to get the spotlight again with some big successes there. Whether we will see anyone confirm that U.S. troops are operating in Pakistan — that will likely have to come from the lips of President Musharraf.
Bret Baier is a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel.
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