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U.S., NATO Not Planning Ground Ops in Pakistan, Officials Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2010 – Neither the United States nor NATO forces are planning to conduct ground operations in Pakistan, Pentagon and International Security Assistance Force officials said today.

Press stories suggested the coalition was proposing to launch special operations forces into North Waziristan – a part of the Federally Administered Tribal Area in Pakistan – to go after militants who use the area as a safe haven.

“There is absolutely no truth to reporting in the New York Times that U.S. forces are planning to conduct ground operations into Pakistan,” Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, said today.

ISAF and the Afghan government have developed a strong working relationship with the Pakistani government, Smith said, and the entities coordinate activities along the border to put the squeeze on militants.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan also commented on the story. “We’re not sure what the source of that story is, but it is inaccurate,” he said.

Lapan said the United States has worked extensively with Pakistani authorities. Pakistan now recognizes that terrorists in the country are an existential threat. In 2009, Pakistani Taliban took the Swat Valley – about 40 miles from the capitol of Islamabad – from the government. Pakistani soldiers and police moved to retake the valley. Since then, Pakistan has moved 140,000 soldiers into the western border area with Afghanistan. They have moved forces into Kyber province, South Waziristan and Baijur province.

Monsoon floods last summer dislocated 20 million people around the country, and the Pakistani army was key to providing relief assistance to those displaced.

Officials in Islamabad told reporters last week that Pakistani forces are over-extended. The forces can clear areas of militant activities, but they have to stay in the area to hold them as other government agencies are not developed enough to come in behind soldiers to maintain security and phase in development.

There are fewer than 100 U.S. forces in Pakistan – all involved with training Pakistani security personnel. “We have signaled in the past, that we are ready, willing and able to work with the Pakistani military in all manner of ways,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a Fox News interview. “But they are a sovereign country, so this is a partnership, and we’ve got to work according to what their interests are, as well.”

 

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