The Asia Times isn’t my go-to source for reliable news but there’s a lot about this that makes sense. It comes two days after the big Times scoop on Saturday about Talibanization in the tribal areas threatening to spill over into Pakistan proper and six weeks after the LA Times reported grumbling within the administration about the huge amount of military aid we’re handing to a guy who refuses to use his military. Sounds like the opposition to him within Pakistan for firing the country’s chief justice might now be so hot that he’s worried what’ll happen if the U.S. suddenly withdraws its support for him, too.

That’s nice leverage to have. Let’s hope it’s true that we’ve used it. In light of the attacks this weekend and the reports ABC has been churning out about suicide-bomber graduation ceremonies and summer “spectaculars,” it may be that we couldn’t afford to wait any longer.

Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be.

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is expected to make an important announcement on extremism during an address to the nation in the next day or two…

Operations inside Pakistan might be carried out independently by the United States, probably with air power, by Pakistani forces acting alone or as joint offensives. In all cases, though, the US will pull the strings, for instance by providing the Pakistanis with information on targets to hit…

[N]ew operations, which could begin within weeks, if not days, are expected to be much larger in scale [than previous isolated U.S. air attacks].

They’ve been hitting isolated targets in Pakistan periodically when intel emerges that an AQ leader is on the premises. Zawahiri was almost liquidated last year in an airstrike on a madrassa; the CIA’s increased its presence in the border area too within the last few months, but with no reported results. Obviously, given the extent of AQ/Taliban penetration, they want a more sustained presence. In fact, Bush promised Wolf Blitzer last year that if Osama was spotted, he’d send U.S. troops across the border whether or not Musharraf wanted them there — which, as Musharraf reminded us all again recently, he didn’t. Funny how a political crisis concentrates the mind.

Speaking of crisis, why would Musharraf think he can get away with inviting U.S. troops onto Pakistani soil in the middle of his own political meltdown? Quite possibly because of the months-long standoff he’s been having with Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, the two jihadist nuts who operate the “Red Mosque” in Islamabad and have been scaring the hell out of people with kidnappings, threats of suicide bombings, etc. I’ve written about them before. Now would be a good time to revisit those posts because if Musharraf does make the announcement that the Asia Times predicts, they’re surely going to react somehow. And if the Times is right about who they are, they’re much more significant figures than any of us have realized:

All these pro-Taliban/al-Qaeda zones on the Afghan border have connections with the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, run by outspoken brothers Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed. The brothers are openly pro-Taliban and also run large Islamic seminaries for boys and girls.

The Pakistani establishment believes Aziz is in fact the new leader of all the Taliban and al-Qaeda assets spreading through northwestern Pakistan, especially the zone commanded by the TNSM. Aziz delivers lectures by telephone every evening to TNSM members…

They can be expected to organize sustained resistance should NATO/US forces launch attacks into Pakistan. Some reports claim that about 70 suicide bombers are waiting to be unleashed from the mosque. But any attack on the mosque could set off a chain reaction all the way from Islamabad to the Afghan border and beyond, in the process throwing Pakistan further into turmoil.

The cynic in me wonders if that Pakistani government memo about Talibanization that formed the basis of the Times scoop this weekend wasn’t purposely leaked by Musharraf to alarm the locals and give him the political cover he needs to authorize U.S. incursions. Whatever you gotta do, buddy.