US special forces secretly working with Pakistan military

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 10:16

London: US embassy cables released by
whistleblower website WikiLeaks reveal that teams of US special forces have been secretly working with Pakistan military in the tribal areas, the Guardian said Wednesday.

Small US special forces teams helped hunt down Taliban
and al-Qaeda fighters and co-ordinate drone strikes, American
cables revealed.

They pointed out that the number of soldiers involved
were limited to just 16 in October 2009 - but the deployment
is of immense political significance.

The first special forces team of four soldiers was
deployed at an old British colonial fort in the northern half
of the tribal belt in September 2009, so as to help Frontier
Corps paramilitaries to carry out artillery strikes on a
militant base, one of the leaked US cables revealed.

A month later, two more teams of six soldiers each
were deployed at Pakistani army bases in North and South
Waziristan, a lawless warren of mountains considered to be the
global headquarters of al-Qaeda, it said.

Their job was to provide "intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance" support, "general operational advice" and
to help set up a live satellite feed from American drones
flying overhead.

American officials, who had long been pushing for such
a deployment in the face of "adamant" Pakistani opposition,
were jubilant, viewing it as a sign of growing trust in an
often troubled relationship, the cable said.

"The developments of the past two months thus appear
to represent a sea change in [the military`s] thinking," read
one of the cables.

American special forces had been deployed in Pakistan
since 2008 but were limited to a training role, it noted.
Permission for the active combat deployment "almost
certainly" came with the personal consent of Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, another cable read.
"Patient relationship-building with the military is
the key factor that has brought us to this point. The
Pakistanis are increasingly confident that we do not have
ulterior motives in assisting their operations," according to
the cable.

Participation of American soldiers in combat
operations in the tribal campaign has never been publicly
acknowledged due to its extreme political sensitivity in a
country seething with anti-US sentiment, it further noted.

In the cables, Pakistan bureaucrats have been shown as
supporting the drone attacks, viewing them as a solution to a
Speaking in an "unofficial capacity" last year, a
senior tribal area official in Peshawar told US officials that
"he and many others could accept Predator strikes as they were
surgical and clearly hitting high value targets".

Most local people did not fear the strikes because
"everyone knew that they only hit the house or location of
very bad people", he said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 10:16

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