Posts Tagged ‘US special forces’

US Troops See ‘Expanded Role’ in Pakistan

April 14, 2010

Pentagon Pushes for $10 Million ‘Pool’ for Funding

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  April 13, 2010

Despite an official prohibition at taking any part in Pakistan’s assorted military offensives, the US Special Forces in the nation have continued to expand the definition of “training operations” until now they are overseeing the combat in several areas.

The training mission was originally supposed to be so limited that they weren’t supposed to even train troops directly, they were supposed to train Pakistani trainers who would pass the information along to the paramilitary forces in FATA. Even this was controversial at the time.

But now, the US troops are taking part in “hold and build” operations in FATA, coordinating the operations of the various Pakistani military and civilian authorities in the region.

The Pentagon is now said to be seeking the creation of a $10 million pool for the “trainers” in the nation, to be used for discretionary “hearts and minds” spending, likely mostly on humanitarian aid projects.

But US troops are already showing up in some odd places considering their extremely limited mission. In February three US soldiers were killed in a bombing in the Swat Valley, when the troops were attending a school opening in the area. These photo-op visits are likely to become more and more common as the US presence in the nation grows.

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Afghans rally against rising civilian killings

December 31, 2009
Morning Star Online, Wednesday 30 December 2009
by Tom Mellen
Afghans protest against the recent killings of 10 civilians allegedly by coalition forces

Afghans protest against the recent killings of 10 civilians allegedly by coalition forces

Afghan students have rallied in Jalalabad and threatened to “take up guns instead of pens and fight occupation forces” if the Karzai regime fails to stop the indiscriminate killing of civilians by occupation troops.

Continues >>

US drone strikes in Pakistan hours after sovereignty pledge

September 18, 2008

By Omar Waraich in Islamabad | The Independent, 18 September 2008

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A US drone attacked suspected militants inside Pakistan yesterday, only hours after the US military chief assured Pakistani leaders that the country’s sovereignty would be respected.

In an effort to calm escalating tensions between Washington and Islamabad, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, made a surprise visit to the Pakistani capital after it emerged that President George Bush had authorised US forces to attack Taliban militants in tribal areas on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The two allies have been locked in a game of brinkmanship since US special operations troops mounted the first known ground assault in Pakistan, allegedly killing up to 20 people in a village in South Waziristan. Afterwards Pakistan’s army vowed to retaliate and defend itself “at all costs”.

Admiral Mullen met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Pakistani army chief General Ashaf Kayani. Afterwards the US embassy said: “Admiral Mullen reiterated the US commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and to develop further… co-operation.”

But within hours a pilotless drone fired four missiles into South Waziristan, killing five militants, according to local intelligence officials. Reuters claimed the attack was the product of “US-Pakistani intelligence-sharing”, but government officials appeared to disagree.

“The [Mullen] visit was nice and he was very understanding,” said Ahmad Mukthar, the Defence minister. “Now these airstrikes have come as a surprise.”

The new civilian Pakistani government is fearful that increased US intervention will inflame an already hostile public. On Tuesday, President Asif Ali Zardari urged Gordon Brown to persuade the Americans to relent during a meeting at Downing Street.

“The UK agrees with us that such moves are counterproductive,” said an official. “Britain has a major role to play [here] – they know the area better than the US.”

Raids into Pakistan: What U.S. authority?

September 15, 2008

Bush’s orders to send special forces after Taliban militants have roots in previous presidencies.

Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, Sept 15, 2008

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Reporter head shot

Reporter Howard LaFranchi talks about the US military’s raids inside Pakistan, looking for terrorists.

Orders President Bush signed in July authorizing raids by special operations forces in the areas of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda and undertaking those raids without official Pakistani consent, have roots stretching back to the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In an address to a joint session of Congress nine days after 9/11, President Bush said, “From this day forward any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

But even before that declaration, two key steps had been taken: One, Congress had authorized the use of US military force against terrorist organizations and the countries that harbor or support them. Two, Bush administration officials had warned Pakistan’s leaders of the dire consequences their country would face if they did not unequivocally enlist in the fight against radical Islamist terrorism.

What Mr. Bush’s July orders signify is that, after seven years of encouraging Pakistan to take on extremists harbored in remote areas along its border with Afghanistan and subsidizing the Pakistani military handsomely to do it, the US has become convinced that Pakistan is neither able nor willing to fight the entrenched Taliban and Al Qaeda elements. Indeed, recent events appear to have convinced at least some in the administration that parts of Pakistan’s military and powerful intelligence service are actually aiding the extremists.

“We’ve moved beyond the message stage here. I think the US has had it with messages that don’t get any action, and that is why the president authorized this,” says Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East analysis for Stratfor, an intelligence consulting firm in Washington. “This says loud and clear, ‘We’re fed up.’ ”

Even before the July order, the US had undertaken covert operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Moreover, the CIA over the past year has stepped up missile attacks by the unmanned Predator drones it operates to hit targets in the region. That increase has coincided with a deterioration of the war in Afghanistan, where the Afghan Army and NATO forces have come under increasing attack from militants crossing over the rugged and lawless border from Pakistan.

But Bush’s orders, first reported in The New York Times Thursday, mean that operations against insurgent sanctuaries will become overt and probably more frequent. A Sept. 3 ground assault involving US commandos dropped from helicopters targeted a suspected terrorist compound. Missile attacks by the CIA’s unmanned drones, including one Friday reported by Pakistani officials to have killed at last 12 people, are also on the rise.

Precedence for the orders authorizing the attacks on terrorist havens can be found in President Bill Clinton’s authorization of retaliatory attacks in 1993 (against Iraqi intelligence facilities) and in 1998 (against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Sudan), and in President Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya, legal scholars say.

The administration has debated the use of commando raids in Pakistan for years, but the tipping point came in July, as relations with Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders deteriorated, intelligence sources say. The “kicker,” according to one source who requested anonymity over the sensitivity of the issue, was two July events: the bombing of India’s embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, an act that US intelligence officials concluded was aided by Pakistani intelligence operatives; and a July 13 attack on a US military outpost in eastern Afghanistan that killed nine US soldiers. The outpost attack was carried out by Taliban militants who had crossed over the nearby border from Pakistan.

Continued . . .

Bush secret order to send special forces into Pakistan

September 12, 2008

· White House seeks British backing

· Fear of escalating regional conflict

An observation overlooks the mountains on the Pakistan border

An observation post sits in the mountains over looking Speray on one side, and the Pakistan border on the other. Photograph: John D McHugh

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in “safe havens” in western Pakistan’s tribal belt is being lost.

Following Bush’s decision, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents. Pakistani officials condemned the raid as illegal and said most of the dead were civilians. US and Nato commanders are anxious to halt infiltration across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border of insurgents and weapons blamed for casualties among coalition troops. The killing of a US soldier in eastern Afghanistan yesterday brought American losses in 2008 to 112, the deadliest year since the 2001 intervention. The move is regarded as unprecedented in terms of sending troops into a friendly, allied country.

But another American objective is the capture of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader held responsible for organising the 9/11 attacks. He and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are thought to be hiding in the tribal areas of north and south Waziristan.

Bush’s decision to extend the war into Pakistan, and his apparent hope of British backing, formed the background to a video conference call with Gordon Brown yesterday. “What’s happening on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan is something where we need to develop a new strategy,” Brown said before talking to Bush.

Brown said he would discuss the border issue with Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, who visits Britain next week.

Bush’s unusual move in personally calling the prime minister for an Afghan strategy discussion has led to speculation that the US president was trying to line up British support for the new policy, including the possible involvement of British special forces in future cross-border incursions.

Bush’s executive order is certain to cause strains with some Nato allies fearful that a spreading conflict could bring down Pakistan’s weak civilian government and spark a wider war. Last night there were indications of open disagreement.

James Appathurai, a Nato spokesman, said the alliance did not support cross-border attacks or deeper incursions in to Pakistani territory.

“The Nato policy, that is our mandate, ends at the border. There are no ground or air incursions by Nato forces into Pakistani territory,” he said.

Nato has 53,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of which are American. But the US maintains a separate combat force dedicated to battling al-Qaida and counter-terrorism in general. Nato defence ministers are due to discuss Afghanistan in London next week.

Last week’s raid, and a subsequent attack on Monday by a Predator drone firing Hellfire missiles, provoked protests across the board in Pakistan, with only Zardari among leading politicians refusing to publicly condemn it.

Pakistan’s armed forces chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs”. He went on: “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.”

He denied there was any agreement or understanding to the contrary. His comments were widely interpreted as a warning to Zardari not to submit to the American importunity. But his tough words also raised the prospect of clashes between US and Pakistani forces if American military incursions continue or escalate.

Until now, Washington has regarded Pakistan as a staunch ally in the “war on terror” that was launched in 2001. But the alliance has been weakened by last month’s forced resignation of the army strongman, former general Pervez Musharraf, and his replacement by Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower.

Polls suggest most Pakistanis favour ending all counter-terrorism cooperation with Washington, which is blamed for a rising civilian casualty toll in Afghanistan and in the tribal areas.

Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, joined the chorus of condemnation yesterday. He reportedly told state media Kayani’s warning that unilateral US actions were undermining the fight against Islamist extremism represented the government’s position.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Robert Gates, defence secretary, told Congress this week that victory in Afghanistan was by no means certain and the US needed to take the fight to the enemy inside Pakistan.

Mullen called for a “more comprehensive strategy” embracing both sides of the border. “Until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming,” he said.

US and Pakistani forces have clashed by accident in the past during operations to root out militants, although sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are said to harbour deep resentment about perceived American interference.

US attack inside Pakistan threatens dangerous new war

September 6, 2008

Global Research, September 5, 2008

A ground assault by US Special Forces troops on a Pakistani village on Wednesday threatens to expand the escalating Afghanistan war into its neighbour. Pakistan is already confronting a virtual civil war in its tribal border regions as the country’s military, under pressure from Washington, seeks to crush Islamist militias supporting the anti-occupation insurgency inside Afghanistan.

The attack, which left up to 20 civilians dead, marks a definite escalation of US operations inside Pakistan. While US Predator drones and war planes have been used previously to bomb targets, Wednesday’s raid was the first clear case of an assault by American ground troops inside Pakistani territory. The White House and Pentagon have refused to comment on the incident but various unnamed US officials have acknowledged to the media that the raid took place and indicated that there could be more to come.

The attack was unprovoked. US troops landed by helicopter in the village of Jalal Khei in South Waziristan at around 3 a.m. and immediately targetted three houses. The engagement lasted for about 30 minutes and left between 15 and 20 people dead, including women and children.

A US official acknowledged to CNN that there may have been women and children in the immediate vicinity but when the mission began “everyone came out firing from the compound”. Even this flimsy justification for a naked act of aggression is probably a lie. “It was very terrible as all of the residents were killed while asleep,” a villager Din Mohammad told the Pakistan-based International News.

The newspaper provided details of the dead and injured: nine family members of Faujan Wazir, including four women, two children and three men; Faiz Mohammad Wazir, his wife and two other family members; and Nazar Jan and his mother. Two other members of Nazar Jan’s family were seriously wounded.

The US and international media have described the Angoor Adda area around the village as “a known stronghold of the Taliban and Al Qaeda” but offered no evidence to support the claim. A villager, Jabbar Wazir, told the International News: “All of those killed were poor farmers and had nothing to do with the Taliban.”

In comments to the International Herald Tribune, a senior Pakistani official branded the raid a “cowboy action” that had failed to capture or kill any senior Al Qaeda or Taliban leader. “If they had gotten anyone big, they would be bragging about it,” he commented.

The attack has provoked outrage in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement branding the attack as “a gross violation of Pakistan territory” and summoned US ambassador Anne Patterson to provide an explanation. North West Frontier Province (NWFP) governor Owais Ahmed Ghani declared that “the people expect that the armed forces of Pakistan would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country”. He put the number killed at 20.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the raid was “completely counterproductive” and risked provoking an uprising even among those tribesmen who have previously supported the army’s operations in the border areas.

The International News reported: “Angry villagers later blocked the main road between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Angoor Adda by placing the bodies of their slain tribesmen on the road. They chanted slogans against the US and NATO military authorities for crossing the border without any provocation and killing innocent people.”

The US raid has compounded the political crisis inside Pakistan, where the selection of a new president is due to take place tomorrow. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been engaged in a delicate balancing act—continuing to support US demands for a crackdown by the Pakistani military along the border with Afghanistan, while trying to defuse widespread anger and fend off accusations that it is a US puppet.

Reaffirming his support for the Bush administration’s bogus “war on terror”, PPP presidential candidate Asif Ali Zardari declared in a column in yesterday’s Washington Post: “We stand with the United States, Britain, Spain and others who have been attacked.” Zardari went on to promise that he would ensure that Pakistani territory would not be used to launch raids on US and NATO forces inside Afghanistan.

However, as PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar explained, the US attack was politically compromising. “We have been very clear that any action on this side of the border must be taken by Pakistani forces themselves,” he told the Associated Press. “It is very embarrassing for the government. The people will start blaming the government of Pakistan.”

An expanded war

The decision to launch Wednesday’s attack was undoubtedly taken at the top levels of the White House and Pentagon. As the New York Times reported in articles earlier this year, a high-level debate has been taking place in Washington over the use of US Special Forces inside Pakistan as well as the intensification of existing CIA operations, which include Predator missile strikes.

A meeting in early January involved Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and top national security and intelligence officials advisers. According to the New York Times on January 6, options discussed included “loosening restrictions on the CIA to strike selected targets in Pakistan” and operations involving US Special Operations forces, such as the Navy Seals.

The Times reported on January 27 that then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf rejected proposals put by US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA Director Michael Hayden for an expanded American combat presence in Pakistan, either through covert CIA missions or joint operations with Pakistani security forces. While apparently accepting the refusal, the US intensified pressure on Pakistan to bring its border areas under control.

As the anti-occupation insurgency has expanded in Afghanistan, claiming a growing number of US and NATO casualties, Pakistan has become a convenient scapegoat. Washington has repeatedly accused the Pakistani military of failing to suppress Islamist militia and alleged that Pakistani military intelligence is actively supporting anti-US guerrillas inside Afghanistan.

Admiral Mullen has held five meetings since February with his Pakistani counterpart, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to press for tougher action. The most recent took place last weekend aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, stationed in the Arabian Sea. In comments to CNN, a US official “declined to say” whether there were any new agreements for US troops to operate inside Pakistani airspace or on the ground to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Whether the Pakistani military quietly approved Wednesday’s attack or not, the Bush administration is making clear that it intends to extend the war into Pakistan. Citing top American officials, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that the raid “could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defence Secretary Robert Gates has been advocating for months within President George W. Bush’s war council”.

This utterly reckless policy, which risks the eruption of a US war against Pakistan, is bipartisan in character. In fact, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has repeatedly declared his support for broadening the “war on terror” through unilateral US attacks on insurgents based inside Pakistan. His candidacy has been strongly backed by sections of the US establishment that have been critical of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq for undermining US interests. Far from opposing aggressive US military action, Obama has become the political vehicle for shifting its focus to Afghanistan and Pakistan as the means of advancing US strategic interests in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The US attack on the village of Jalal Khei is another demonstration that the shift in policy, with all its potentially catastrophic consequences, is already underway.


Peter Symonds is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research Articles by Peter Symonds

Pakistan reacts with fury after up to 20 die in ‘American’ attack on its soil

September 4, 2008
· Children reported dead in assault near Taliban base
· Raid was gross violation, says foreign ministry

Pakistan

Relations have become increasingly fraught between the US and Pakistan, which is struggling to control Islamist militants. Photograph: John Moore/EPA

The war in Afghanistan spilled over on to Pakistani territory for the first time yesterday when heavily armed commandos, believed to be US Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold.

The surprise attack on Jala Khel was launched in early morning darkness and killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than one mile from the Afghan border.

Local residents were quoted as saying that most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. It was not known whether any Taliban or al-Qaida militants or western forces were among the dead.

Furious official Pakistani condemnation of the attack followed swiftly, amid growing concern that the Nato-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could spread to Pakistan, sparking a region-wide conflagration.

Owais Ahmed Ghanisaid, the governor of North-West Frontier province, adjoining South Waziristan, said 20 people had died and called for retaliation. “This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan expect that the armed forces … would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply,” he said.

The foreign ministry in Islamabad termed the incursion “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and a “grave provocation” which, it said, had resulted in “immense” loss of civilian life.

“Such actions are counterproductive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism. On the contrary, they may fuel the fire of hatred and violence we are trying to extinguish.”

“This is a very alarming and very dangerous development,” said a former senior Pakistani official. “We have absolutely been telling them [the US] not to do this but they ignored us.”

US and Nato commanders say Taliban and al-Qaida fighters use the unruly, semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan to stage attacks on coalition forces inside Afghanistan and create “safe havens” where they are immune from attack. Nato and civilian casualties in Afghanistan have reached record levels in the past 12 months in the face of a spreading Taliban offensive.

US forces have used missile-carrying drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – to attack militant targets inside Pakistan in the past. But yesterday’s assault, involving up to three helicopters and infantry commandos, marked the first time the fight has been taken directly to the enemy on Pakistani soil.

Major-General Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistan army, said Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) had carried out the raid. “Two helicopters of Isaf landed very early in the morning and conducted a raid on a compound there. As per our report, seven civilians were killed in this raid.”

But a Nato spokesman denied involvement. “There has been no Nato or Isaf involvement crossing the border into Pakistan,” a Nato spokesman, James Appathurai, said. There were unconfirmed reports that the incursion was carried out by US Special Forces, which are not under Isaf command and can operate independently. A US military spokesman at the Bagram base near Kabul did not deny an attack had occurred but declined to comment.

Tensions between Pakistan’s new civilian government and the US have been running high following American accusations that rogue elements in Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, were feeding classified information on coalition troops to Taliban fighters. Washington has also repeatedly accused Islamabad of failing to do enough to curb militant activity.

The strains have been exacerbated by a political crisis in Pakistan following last month’s forced resignation of President Pervez Musharraf and the collapse of a power-sharing agreement between the ruling Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister. An election to find a replacement for Musharraf is scheduled for Saturday, with the PPP chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower, expected to win.

In a further sign of instability, militants opened fire yesterday on prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s car, in an apparent assassination attempt, near Islamabad. The assailants, firing from a roadside embankment, hit the driver’s side window twice. Gilani was not in the car at the time.

Today he was due to meet David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who is visiting Pakistan.

Watch John D McHugh’s video on the struggle for power and influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region


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