The New York Times reports there is a secret plan to put American
commandos in Pakistan's tribal areas, along the Afghanistan border, to
hunt for terrorists who take refuge there. But the Times says the plan
has not been implemented due to concerns about the impact of such
operations. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Times report says the plan was designed to end disagreements among U.S.
government agencies about how to pursue leaders of the al-Qaida
terrorist network. But the newspaper says those same disagreements
have prevented the plan from being implemented.
the paper says there is concern about the impact on Pakistan's
government, a key U.S. ally, if the presence of U.S. ground troops
The Times reports "mounting frustration" in the
U.S. Defense Department about the continuing delay in implementing the
But Spokesman Bryan Whitman says, although he can not comment on
whether any such secret plan exists, he is not aware of any frustration
about not using U.S. troops to hunt terrorists inside Pakistan.
quite frankly, have not sensed that kind of frustration," he said. "I
have sensed the same kind of frustration that you have heard from our
military commanders, and that is with a border region that is long,
challenging, porous, in an area where operations have taken place in
the past, and where some elements have appeared to find some safe haven
in Pakistan, and what Pakistan is doing to try to address those."
use of Pakistani territory along the Afghan border as a safe haven for
al-Qaida and other terrorist groups has been a cause of growing concern
among U.S. officials. The groups regularly send militants across the
border to attack U.S., Afghan and allied forces. Pakistan says a U.S.
air strike against one such group killed 11 Pakistani soldiers earlier
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
called the situation "a real concern." But he also said the insurgent
activity has increased only recently.
Gates indicated the United States is ready to help Pakistan address the problem, but did not specify exactly how.
Pakistani government, I think, now understands that it is a problem for
the Pakistani government as well," he said. "It is not just a problem
for us. So I think this creates an opportunity for us to talk with
them and see if we can work together in a better way to try and deal
with the problem in the FATA."
The FATA are Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along the Afghan border.
New York Times says its story is based on more than four dozen
interviews with current and former U.S. and Pakistani officials. It
says al-Qaida now has a string of camps in Pakistan's border area that
give it a similar capability to what it had in Afghanistan eight years
ago, when it planned the September 11th attacks.
quotes the Pakistani general responsible for the region as denying
allegations of a strong terrorist presence, but it also quotes U.S.
officials who are critical of the general's efforts to get the facts.
now at least, the United States is only conducting air strikes in the
area, based on intelligence reports or when in 'hot pursuit' of
But Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says the
hunt for al-Qaida leaders and the broader war on terrorism are not just
U.S. concerns, and American forces will continue to implement the
policy outlined by President Bush just after the September 11 attacks.
continue to pursue terrorist activities wherever they take place," he
said. "We seek to not only deny them operations, but also the ability
to plan, seek safe harbor. Our efforts are to identify, capture, if
U.S. officials say when it comes to the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, that effort needs to be pursued in
cooperation with those two governments, and with other allies in the
NATO and coalition commands.