US forces fighting 'clandestine' ground battles in Pak alongside local troops

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  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    US forces fighting 'clandestine' ground battles in Pak alongside local troops: Report



    Washington, July 21 (ANI): In a significant move which highlights the deepening US worries concerning the terror threat emanating from Pakistan, US Special Operations Forces have been allowed to operate alongside their local counterparts in the country.

    US officials revealed that that the Special Operations teams join the Pakistani troops on aid missions only when commanders determine that there is relatively little security risk.

    The U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves and return fire if attacked. But the official emphasized the joint missions aren't supposed to be combat operations, and the Americans often participate in civilian garb, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    This is an important move considering Pakistan's long stated objection to allowing any foreign troops from operating on its soil.

    Admitting that the special US commandoes have started accompanying their Pakistani colleagues on aid missions, Pakistan officials said that Washington has been clearly told that troops must maintain a "low profile."

    "Going out in the open, that has negative optics, that is something we have to work out. This whole exercise could be counterproductive if people see U.S. boots on the ground," the newspaper quoted a Pakistani official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity due to the sensitive topic, as saying.

    Despite Pakistan's denial over allowing any foreign troops on its soil, the presence of US commandoes has increased substantially in the country, and according to reports today, America has about 120 trainers in the country.

    "The program is set to expand again with new joint missions to oversee small-scale development projects aimed at winning over tribal leaders," officials familiar with the plan said.

    In Pakistan, the U.S. military helps train both the regular military and the Frontier Corps, a force drawn from residents of the tribal regions but led by Pakistani Army officers.

    A senior US military official also claimed that the Special Operations Forces have developed a closer relationship with the Frontier Corps, and go out into the field more frequently with those units.

    "The Frontier Corps are more accepting partners," the official said. (ANI)
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    U.S. Forces Step Up Pakistan Presence


    WASHINGTON—U.S. Special Operations Forces have begun venturing out with Pakistani forces on aid projects, deepening the American role in the effort to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistani territory that has been off limits to U.S. ground troops.

    The expansion of U.S. cooperation is significant given Pakistan's deep aversion to allowing foreign military forces on its territory. The Special Operations teams join the aid missions only when commanders determine there is relatively little security risk, a senior U.S. military official said, in an effort to avoid direct engagement that would call attention to U.S. participation.


    Xinhua/Zuma
    Pakistani troops earlier this month in South Waziristan, where the country has tried to quell militant groups.

    The U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves and return fire if attacked. But the official emphasized the joint missions aren't supposed to be combat operations, and the Americans often participate in civilian garb.

    Pakistan has told the U.S. that troops need to keep a low profile. "Going out in the open, that has negative optics, that is something we have to work out," said a Pakistani official. "This whole exercise could be counterproductive if people see U.S. boots on the ground."

    Because of Pakistan's sensitivities, the U.S. role has developed slowly. In June 2008, top U.S. military officials announced 30 American troops would begin a military training program in Pakistan, but it took four months for Pakistan to allow the program to begin.

    The first U.S. Special Operations Forces were restricted to military classrooms and training bases. Pakistan has gradually allowed more trainers into the country and allowed the mission's scope to expand. Today, the U.S. has about 120 trainers in the country, and the program is set to expand again with new joint missions to oversee small-scale development projects aimed at winning over tribal leaders, according to officials familiar with the plan.

    Such aid projects are a pillar of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, which the U.S. hopes to pass on to the Pakistanis through the training missions.

    U.S. military officials say if U.S. forces are able to help projects such as repairing infrastructure, distributing seeds and providing generators or solar panels, they can build trust with the Pakistani military, and encourage them to accept more training in the field.

    "You have to bring something to the dance," said the senior military official. "And the way to do it is to have cash ready to do everything from force protection to other things that will protect the population."

    Congressional leaders last month approved $10 million in funding for the aid missions, which will focus reconstruction projects in poor tribal areas that are off-limits to foreign civilian aid workers.

    The Pakistani government has warned the Pentagon that a more visible U.S. military presence could undermine the mission of pacifying the border region, which has provided a haven for militants staging attacks in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

    The U.S. has already aroused local animosity with drone strikes targeting militants in the tribal areas, though the missile strikes have the tacit support of the Pakistani government and often aid the Pakistani army's campaign against the militants.

    Providing money to U.S. troops to spend in communities they are trying to protect has been a tactic used for years to fight insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The move to accompany Pakistani forces in the field is even more significant, and repeats a pattern seen in the Philippines during the Bush administration, when Army Green Berets took a gradually more expansive role in Manila's fight against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern islands of Mindanao.

    There, the Green Berets started in a limited training role, and their initial deployment unleashed a political backlash against the Philippine president. But as the Philippine military began to improve their counterinsurgency skills, Special Operations Forces accompanied them on major offensives throughout the southern part of the archipelago.

    In Pakistan, the U.S. military helps train both the regular military and the Frontier Corps, a force drawn from residents of the tribal regions but led by Pakistani Army officers.

    The senior military official said the U.S. Special Operations Forces have developed a closer relationship with the Frontier Corps, and go out into the field more frequently with those units. "The Frontier Corps are more accepting partners," said the official.

    For years the Frontier Corps was underfunded and struggled to provide basic equipment for its soldiers. A U.S. effort to help equip the force has made them more accepting of outside help.

    Traveling with the Frontier Corps is dangerous. In February, three Army soldiers were killed in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province when a roadside bomb detonated near their convoy. The soldiers, assigned to train the Frontier Corps, were traveling out of uniform to the opening of a school that had been renovated with U.S. money.The regular Pakistani military also operates in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but they are less willing to go on missions with U.S. forces off the base, in part because they believe appearing to accept U.S. help will make them look weak, the senior U.S. military official said. The Pakistani official said the military simply doesn't need foreign help.

    During the past two years, Pakistan has stepped up military operations against the militant groups that operate in the tribal areas. Although Washington has praised the Pakistani offensives, Pentagon officials have said Pakistan's military needs help winning support among tribal elders. If successful, the joint missions and projects may help the Pakistani military retain control of areas in South Waziristan, the Swat valley and other border regions they have cleared of militants.

    In Pakistan, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad will retain final approval for all projects, according to Defense officials. But congressional staffers briefed on the program said the intent is to have Pakistani military forces hand out any of the goods bought with the funding or pay any local workers hired.

    "The goal is never to have a U.S. footprint on any of these efforts," said a congressional staffer.
     

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