US` intelligence fusion cells shutting down in Pak: Report
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Last Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011, 18:41
  
Washington: Pakistan is shutting down three US military intelligence liaison centers in Quetta and Peshawar, in a setback to American efforts to eliminate terror sanctuaries in lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, a media report said on Friday.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of US military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in the country over a series of incidents, including the killing of Osama bin Laden, without taking Islamabad into confidence.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the US to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations Taliban fighters, the Los Angeles Times said.

US special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, unnamed senior US officials were quoted as saying by the daily.

The US units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down. It wasn't immediately clear whether the steps are permanent.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew on Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan's demands for a smaller US military presence, the daily said.

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army's 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army's 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan's southern provinces.

The closures have effectively stopped the US training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior US military officer said.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove US advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan.

US Army General David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the American presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan's failure to control the militants, it said.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration's efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, US officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA's ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

PTI


First Published: Friday, May 27, 2011, 18:41


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