Over 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists are secretly training Pakistani commandos to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the countrys lawless tribal areas more effectively.
The ‘New York Times’ quoted American military officials as saying that US Army Special Forces soldiers are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops,providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics.
They do not conduct combat operations,the officials added.
They make up a secret task force,overseen by the United States Central Command and Special Operations Command.
It started last summer,with the support of Pakistans government and military,in an effort to root out Qaeda and Taliban operations that threaten American troops in Afghanistan and are increasingly destabilizing Pakistan.
Pakistani officials have vigorously protested American missile strikes in the tribal areas as a violation of sovereignty and have resisted efforts by Washington to put more troops on Pakistani soil.
President Asif Ali Zardari,who leads a weak civilian government,is trying to cope with soaring anti-Americanism among Pakistanis and a belief that he is too close to Washington.
Despite the political hazards for Islamabad,the American effort is beginning to pay dividends.
A new Pakistani commando unit within the Frontier Corps paramilitary force has used information from the Central Intelligence Agency and other sources to kill or capture as many as 60 militants in the past seven months,including at least five high-ranking commanders,a senior Pakistani military official said.
The American officials acknowledge that at the very moment when Washington most needs Pakistans help,the greater tensions between Pakistan and India since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November have made the Pakistani Army less willing to shift its attention to the Qaeda and Taliban threat.
Officials from both Pakistan and the United States agreed to disclose some details about the American military advisers and the enhanced intelligence sharing to help dispel impressions that the missile strikes were thwarting broader efforts to combat a common enemy.
The intelligence sharing has really improved in the past few months. Both sides realize its in their common interest, said Talat Masood,a retired army general and a military analyst.
In addition,a small team of Pakistani air defense controllers working in the United States Embassy in Islamabad ensures that Pakistani F-16 fighter-bombers conducting missions against militants in the tribal areas do not mistakenly hit remotely piloted American aircraft flying in the same area or a small number of CIA operatives on the ground,a second senior Pakistani officer said.
The new 400-man Pakistani paramilitary commando unit is a good example of the new cooperation.