Saturday 17 March 2018

US military calls for raids across Pakistan border

Rob Crilly in Kabul

American military commanders are demanding ground raids on Pakistan's tribal areas in apparent frustration at Islamabad's failure to tackle militant havens across the border from Afghanistan, according to senior officers.

The plan has not yet been approved, they said, but could bring an intelligence windfall if they were allowed to launch cross-border attacks to capture insurgents inside Pakistan.

Pakistani and Nato officials denied any such proposals were being considered.

The demands reflect the frustration of commanders whose soldiers are being killed by insurgents who can flee across the border at will.

Analysts also suggested the calls were an attempt to put pressure on Pakistan, America's awkward ally in the fight against al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, to make good on promises of a fresh military offensive. American officials said they were particularly keen to capture -- rather than kill -- militant leaders from the Taliban or the Haqqani network to obtain intelligence about future operations.

"We've never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across," said a senior officer.

The officials also said an Afghan militia, backed by the CIA, had crossed into Pakistan in pursuit of militants on at least two occasions since 2008.

Details of America's secret war in Pakistan -- carried out with the support of the government in Islamabad -- have leaked in recent weeks, with diplomatic cables disclosing how US special forces had fought alongside Pakistani troops. Cross-border collaboration is desperately sensitive for the government of Pakistan, which fears a violent backlash from Islamic hardliners if it is seen to bow to American pressure.

Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, said the country's armed forces were capable of tackling the threat from militants.

"We work with our allies, especially the US, and appreciate their material support but will not accept foreign troops," he wrote on the microblogging site Twitter.

The US has issued repeated requests for Pakistan to take on militant havens in North Waziristan, from where fighters have launched attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.

The region is also home to terrorist training camps, where recruits are believed to have plotted attacks on Europe.

Pakistan has so far refused to set a date for a military operation. With Washington keen to start withdrawing some US troops from Afghanistan next July, military and political leaders point to a renewed sense of urgency.

Last week, President Obama's war review identified tackling Pakistan's havens as crucial to progress in Afghanistan.

Several analysts suggested the leak was designed to pressure Pakistan to take tougher action before the US took matters into their own hands. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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