MIR ALI, Pakistan – The bullet-riddled bodies of two alleged U.S. spies were found Wednesday in a Taliban stronghold in northwest Pakistan, the latest victims of an intelligence war that a top American general indicated is tilting in Washington and Islamabad's favor.
The men's bodies were found together in Mir Ali town in North Waziristan tribal region. Each had a note attached accusing the victim of spying for the Americans and warning other informants they faced the same fate, area resident Akram Ullah said. Another witness, Sana Ullah, said one man was a local tribal elder and the other was Afghan.
Militants in recent years have killed scores of people they suspected of aiding the U.S. and Pakistani governments. The fear of informants has been heightened by the success of U.S. missile strikes against militant targets in the tribal areas, and could be rising again in the wake of Pakistan's arrest of at least three Afghan Taliban leaders in recent weeks.
Those arrests were the result of intelligence breakthroughs, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the war in Afghanistan, told reporters in Islamabad Tuesday night. Among the detained was Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the No. 2. Taliban commander.
Petraeus dismissed the idea that Pakistan acted against Baradar and the others because they may have been involved in talks with the Afghan government and it wanted to get a seat at the table by arresting them.
"I wouldn't share your characterizations that, in a sense, (the Pakistanis) have always had this intelligence," he said. "What has happened is that there has been some important breakthroughs."
Over the past 18 months, Pakistan has undertaken several army offensives in the northwest region bordering Afghanistan against Islamic militants who have enjoyed relative safety there. Those operations have mostly targeted militants attacking the Pakistani state, not militants crossing the border and fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Petraeus said Pakistan still made distinctions between groups in the border region, but said there appeared to be "evolution" in how it regards the threats coming from the area, seeing them now as increasingly entwined.
Petraeus was full of praise for the Pakistani army, saying the offensives in the northwest were "classic counterinsurgency operations" that would one day be studied by students of war. He also accepted its reasons for not moving immediately into North Waziristan, where many of the militant groups focusing on the fight in Afghanistan are based.
"You can only take on so many bad guys at one time. You have to consolidate gains," Petraeus said. "I think there is a very thoughtful and appropriate way ahead."