GHQ denies US forces embedded with Pak Army
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Though the Pakistan Army has not yet officially clarified the alarming WikiLeaks revelation about special US forces embedded with the Pakistani forces, the GHQ sources have categorically denied it while the US Embassy is hesitant to deny or confirm the allegation.
Some key military sources said that the GHQ finds no truth in the US Embassy cable reportedly written by Anne Patterson, former US ambassador, and disclosed by WikiLeaks, conveying to the US State Department that the GHQ had allowed embedding US Special forces personnel to support the military operations within the limits of Pakistan.
The sources insist that after the publication of the reported cable in the media, Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani inquired into the matter and got it confirmed that no such permission was ever given by the GHQ at any level.
The sources said that the US Embassy in Islamabad was also contacted to ascertain how such a message got conveyed when no such permission was ever granted. The military sources said that the US Embassy, too, confirmed to the GHQ that the information was wrong.
The US Embassy, however, when contacted by The News, neither confirmed nor denied this. On the query if anywhere in Pakistan any number of US special forces were involved in any field operation, the US Embassy spokesman said that the US military personnel were providing training to the Pakistani military forces.
The US Embassy spokesman was again precisely asked on Friday evening if anywhere in Pakistan, any number of US Special Forces were involved in any combat operation, but he had yet to reply to this query.
Spokesman Alberto Rodriguez told this correspondent on Saturday evening that The News would get answer to this question by Sunday or Monday.
The WikiLeaks cable said the Pakistani Army approved for the second time in October 2009 deployment of US special operation elements to support the Pakistani military operations, which represented “a sea change in their thinking”.
The cable said that the approval was given by the GHQ. According to Patterson, the approval was done “almost certainly with the personal consent of Chief of Army Staff General Kayani”.
The cable added: “Previously, the Pakistani military leadership adamantly opposed letting us embed our special operations personnel with their military forces. The developments of the past two months thus appear to represent a sea change in their thinking.”
However, the cable noted that these deployments are highly politically sensitive because of widely held concerns among the public about the Pakistani sovereignty and opposition to allowing foreign military forces to operate in any fashion on Pakistani soil. “Should these developments and/or related matters receive any coverage in the Pakistani or US media, the Pakistani military will likely stop making requests for such assistance.”
When the military sources were asked as to why does the Army not publicly deny this besides certain other cables raising eyebrows about the conduct of the military establishment, they said that the prime minister, following the DCC meeting, had already denied the authenticity of these cables. These sources, however, say that the GHQ is considering writing to the PM and possibly to the US authorities over what it called irresponsible and baseless narrations of what had never happened or never said.
On the subject, the US Embassy spokesman was contacted on Friday afternoon and sent three written questions, to which the spokesman promptly responded. These questions and answers are given below:
Q. If this is correct that the Pakistan Army’s GHQ has approached the US Embassy, seeking clarification regarding the reported embedment of US special forces with Pakistani forces operating in tribal areas?
Ans. US Embassy personnel interact with their counterparts in the government and military on a daily basis and have discussions, some of which are private.
Q. Is it a fact that the US Embassy has conveyed to the GHQ that no such embedment ever took place and that the reported stories based on WikiLeaks information are incorrect and not based on facts?
Ans. US Embassy personnel interact with their counterparts in the government and military on a daily basis and discuss a variety of subjects. I cannot categorically discuss which subjects may be talked about in these interactions.
Q. If anywhere in Pakistan, any number of US special forces are involved in any field operation?
Ans. US military personnel provide training to Pakistani military forces at the request of and in coordination with the Government of Pakistan.
The answer to the third question was a subtle admission that no US Special Forces were involved in the military operations inside Pakistan. However, in order to get a clear “yes” or “no” to this pertinent question, the US Embassy spokesman was again sent a more specific question — If anywhere in Pakistan, any number of US special forces are involved in any combat operation? The spokesman did not respond to the question on Friday. He said on Saturday that he would respond to the question by Sunday or Monday.