Saturday, September 25, 2010

Covert US Anti-Terror Operations in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Sept 23: The Central Intelligence Agency runs an Afghan paramilitary force that hunts down Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in covert operations in Pakistan, a US official said on Wednesday.

Confirming an account in a new book by famed reporter Bob Woodward, the US official said that the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams were highly effective but did not offer details.

“This is one of the best Afghan fighting forces and it’s made major contributions to stability and security,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 3,000-strong paramilitary army of Afghan soldiers was created and bankrolled by the CIA, designed as an ‘elite’ unit to pursue “highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan” in the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries, according to The Washington Post, which revealed details of the new book.

Revelations about a US-run unit operating in Pakistan are sure to complicate Washington’s ties with Islamabad as well as Afghanistan’s difficult relations with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s government said it was unaware of any such force and the military flatly denied its existence.

“We are not aware of any such force as had been mentioned or reported by the Washington Post,” Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters.

“But our policy is very clear, we will never allow any foreign boots on our soil... so I can tell you that there is no foreign troops taking part in counter-terrorism operations inside Pakistan.”

Military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said it was “not true”.

“No foreign body, no foreign militia, no foreign troops are allowed to operate on our side of the border. Anyone found doing so will be fired upon,” he said.—AFP

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