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NATO Denies Plan to Expand Special Operations Into Pakistan

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan has denied a New York Times newspaper report that U.S. forces are planning to expand special operations raids into Pakistan's tribal areas, where Afghan Taliban have their hideouts. South Asia experts here in Washington say it is not a practical solution to the problem.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that U.S. military commanders believe that special operations forces could capture militants hiding in Pakistan, yielding an intelligence windfall. But NATO's deputy chief of communications, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Gregory Smith says there is no truth to the report.

Meanwhile, many experts agree with with the U.S. government that the Pakistani Army is not doing enough to get rid of the Afghan Taliban who use Pakistani soil to stage attacks inside neighboring Afghanistan.

Shuja Nawaz at the Atlantic Council in Washington U.S. troops entering Pakistan would be "a nightmarish solution" because of the close ties between the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban, and a new and more dangerous Islamist militant group emerging in Pakistan's Punjab province. "They have links in India, Bangladesh, and people in Europe and North America. These groups are much more dangerous and can certainly create a very serious problem in the heartland of Pakistan. They can also create a very serious situation with India," Nawaz said.

Nawaz says U.S. forces have the capability of going into Pakistan and capturing the Islamist militants, but that would create problems that could be far more serious.

"It is a very complex multi-variant equation. And you need to be able to look at Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Iran -- every one of them at the same time. And I think that needs coolers heads to prevail, I hope, in the ISAF senior command, in Kabul, in Islamabad and in Washington," Nawaz said.

The United States should not insist on the Pakistani Army going after the Afghan Taliban because that would close the door to negotiations with the Taliban, says Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

"You will have a situation where it will be very difficult to find somebody to talk with," Dorronsoro said.

Pakistani military analyst Ikram Sehgal says Pakistanis will react very strongly, if U.S. troops enter their country. He says Pakistanis reluctantly have accepted what news reports say are U.S. drone attacks on militants hideouts inside Pakistan and the presence of U.S. intelligence agents who help the Pakistani Army locate militant strongholds.

But Sehgal says no Pakistan government will be able to survive the political repercussions of a U.S. military move into the country. "The first thing they will do is they will stop (i.e., close) all the supply routes (used by NATO to resupply its forces in Afghanistan). That I will say will be a passive way of doing it. And I strongly feel if there is an attack on any Pakistani, they will fight back on issues. But I think that will be a total disaster and will escalate the situation out of control," he said.

Despite being an ally of the United States, Pakistan has firmly rejected any suggestion of U.S. military presence on its soil.

In September, after a NATO helicopter incursion killed two Pakistani soldiers on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Pakistan closed a key crossing point for 10 days, stranding NATO fuel and supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan. More than 100 of the stranded trucks were destroyed by attackers described as militants.