‘US secret unit training Pakistan Army to fight Al Qaeda, Taliban’February 24th, 2009 - 12:02 am ICT by IANS
New York, Feb 23 (IANS) Over 70 US military advisers and technical specialists are secretly working in Pakistan to help its armed forces battle Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country’s lawless tribal areas, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Americans, not involved in combat operations, are mostly Army Special Forces soldiers who are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics, the Times quoted US military officials as saying.
It started last summer, with the support of Pakistan’s government and military, in an effort to root out Al Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilising Pakistan, the newspaper said in a Bara, Pakistan, datelined report.
Pakistani officials have been protesting American missile strikes in the tribal areas as a violation of sovereignty and have resisted efforts by Washington to put more troops on Pakistani soil.
Despite the political hazards for Islamabad, the American effort is beginning to pay dividends, the newspaper said.
A new Pakistani commando unit within the Frontier Corps paramilitary force has used information from the Central Intelligence Agency and other sources to kill or capture as many as 60 militants in the past seven months, including at least five high-ranking commanders, a senior Pakistani military official said.
Four weeks ago, the commandos captured a Saudi militant linked to Al Qaeda in the Khyber Agency, one of the tribal areas that run along the border with Afghanistan.
But the main commanders of the Pakistani Taliban, including its leader Baitullah Mehsud, and its leader in the Swat region, Maulana Fazlullah, remain at large.
Chief of the Pakistani Army Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is visiting Washington this week as a White House review on policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan gets under way, will almost certainly be asked how the Pakistani military can do more to eliminate Al Qaeda and the Taliban from the tribal areas.
The American officials acknowledge that at the very moment when Washington most needs Pakistan’s help, the greater tensions between Pakistan and India since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November have made the Pakistani Army less willing to shift its attention to the Al Qaeda and Taliban threat.
Officials from both Pakistan and the US agreed to disclose some details about the American military advisers and the enhanced intelligence sharing to help dispel impressions that the missile strikes were thwarting broader efforts to combat a common enemy. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the increasingly powerful anti-American segment of the Pakistani population.