Pakistan army denies US troops were in northwest
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military has denied a report that US Special Forces were embedded with Pakistani troops for intelligence- gathering missions in the northwest of the country.
The local Dawn newspaper said on Saturday it obtained secret dispatches from WikiLeaks that revealed that US Special Forces were deployed with Pakistani troops in joint operations in Pakistan by September of 2009.
A spokesman from the Pakistani military’s media relations department categorically denied the presence of American troops in North and South Waziristan.
Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s unruly Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), is seen as a global hub for militants, including al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban factions which cross the border to attack US troops in Afghanistan.
“No US troops are involved in any military operations in FATA,” said the spokesman. The WikiLeaks cables could hurt the powerful Pakistani military’s image.
It faced rare criticism after a secret US special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not far from the capital Islamabad this month.
The army condemned the assault, which has severely strained ties between the two countries, as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. But Pakistanis lashed out at the country’s generals because they did not know about the raid.
Anti-American sentiment runs high in Pakistan, partly because of US drone aircraft strikes on militants, which are regarded as a violation of the US ally’s sovereignty and have killed civilians.
The disclosure of the alleged US troop deployments came a day after another set of cables showed that Pakistan’s powerful army chief not only tacitly agreed to the covert US drone campaign against militants, but asked for “continuous Predator coverage” of the tribal areas by these aircraft. The army denied the contents.