US denies its military pushing for Pak raids

The United States termed "inaccurate" a news report that says its forces in Afghanistan are pushing to expand into neighbouring Pakistan`s tribal belt to kill or capture top al Qaeda, Taliban leaders.

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2010, 00:24 AM IST

Washington: The United States on Tuesday termed
"inaccurate" a news report that says its forces in Afghanistan
are pushing to expand into neighbouring Pakistan`s tribal belt
to kill or capture top al Qaeda, Taliban and Haqqani faction
commanders believed to be holed up there.

The White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed the
report published in The New York Times at his daily news
briefing, so did the Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan.

Citing unnamed American officials in Washington, the Times
reported that US military commanders believe special
operations forces could capture militants for interrogation,
bringing in an intelligence windfall.

"Not sure what the source of that story is, but it is
inaccurate," Lapan said.

"There is nothing that is actively being considered,"
Lapan said when asked about The New York Times story which
said that top US military officers are now convinced that
there needs to be a shift in its policy about forays across
the border.

"Pakistan is a sovereign country and they need to make
those decisions. Obviously we talk to them regularly about
those elements especially as militant activities in Pakistan
affects our operations in Afghanistan," Lapan said.

"Better co-ordination is helping us in Afghanistan and
Pakistan and squeezing the militants in the middle," he said
in response to a question.

"We have always said that the pace at which the
Pakistanis conduct operation inside Pakistan is a decision for
them to make," he added.

However, Lapan noted that as the US led international
forces are fighting the war against terrorism in the region;
all the options are on the table.

This particular option is the last option, he added.
"You couldn`t rule anything out. But our position is that
Pakistanis conduct operations inside Pakistan against the
militants," Lapan said.

Gibbs read out the statement issued by the International
Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan saying that that is
the best thing for him to do.

"There`s absolutely no truth to the reporting in the New
York Times that US forces are planning to conduct ground
operations into Pakistan. ISAF and US forces, along with their
Afghan partners, have developed a strong working relationship
with the Pakistan military to address shared security issues,"
the ISAF statement said.

"The coordination recognises the sovereignty of
Afghanistan and Pakistan to pursue insurgents and terrorists
operating in their respective border areas," ISAF said.

Earlier in the day, The New York Times reported that in
an increasing sign of frustration over the lackluster response
from Pakistan in taking head on against the terrorist safe
havens inside its territory, the US is pushing for an expanded
campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border
inside Pakistan.

"The proposal, described by American officials in
Washington and Afghanistan, would escalate military activities
inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has
been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a
backlash," The New York Times said.

It was quick to add though that the plan has not been
approved and is still under consideration.

Top US military officers, the daily said, are now
convinced that there needs to be a shift in its policy about
forays across the border, knowing very well that the half a
dozen such attempts so far have infuriated Pakistani
officials.

The US President, Barack Obama, announcing the result of
the annual review of his Af-Pak policy had clearly said that
Pakistan needs to do more in the war against terrorism
especially against the safe havens inside the country.

Obama needs to approve such a US military proposal; which
in any case would open a new front in this war against
terrorism.

"It would run the risk of angering a Pakistani government
that has been an uneasy ally in the war in Afghanistan,
particularly if it leads to civilian casualties or highly
public confrontations," the daily said.

"We`ve never been as close as we are now to getting the
go-ahead to go across," one senior official was quoted as
saying by The New York Times.

At the same time, the daily reported that there is no
unanimous view point on this issue in the administration so
far.

"In interviews in Washington and Kabul, American officials
said that officers were drawing up plans to begin ground
operations to capture or kill leaders from the Taliban and the
Haqqani network," the daily said.

US officers are particularly eager to capture, as opposed
to kill, militant leaders, who they say can offer intelligence
to guide future operations, it added.

PTI