February 4, 2010
Soldier Deaths Draw Focus to U.S. in Pakistan
The soldiers were among at least 60 to 100 members of a Special Operations team that trains Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency techniques, including intelligence gathering and development assistance. The American service members are from the Special Operations Command of Adm. Eric T. Olson.
At least 12 other American service members have been killed in
That training has been acknowledged only gingerly by both the Americans and the Pakistanis, but has deliberately been kept low-key so as not to trespass onto Pakistani sensitivities about sovereignty, and not to further inflame high anti-American sentiment.
Even though the
Instead, the Central Intelligence Agency operates what has become the main American weapon in Pakistan, the drones armed with missiles that have struck with increasing intensity against militants with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the lawless tribal areas.
The American soldiers were probably made targets as a result of the drone strikes, said Syed Rifaat Hussain, professor of international relations at
If the American soldiers were the targets, the attack raised the question of whether the Taliban had received intelligence or cooperation from within the Frontier Corps.
The three soldiers were killed, and two other service members wounded, in the region of
To disguise themselves in a way that is common for Western men in
Their armored vehicle was equipped with electronic jammers sufficient to block remotely controlled devices and mines, the officer said. Vehicles driven by the Frontier Corps were placed in front and behind the Americans as protection, he said.
Still, the Taliban bomber was able to penetrate their cordon. In all 131 people were wounded, most of them girls who were students at a high school adjacent to the site of the suicide attack, the Lower Dir police said.
The soldiers were en route to the opening of a girls school that had been rebuilt with American money, the United States Embassy said in a statement. The school was destroyed by the Taliban last year as they swept through Lower Dir and the nearby Swat Valley, where a battle raged for months between the Pakistani Army and the Taliban.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban called reporters hours after the attack against the Americans and claimed that his group was responsible.
The Pakistani Army currently occupies Swat, and in an effort to strengthen the civilian institutions there and in Dir, some of the American service members on the Special Operations team have been quietly working on development projects, an American official said.
The presence of the American military members in an area known to be threaded with Taliban militants would also raise questions, said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the
Mr. Aziz said it was odd that American soldiers would go to such a volatile area where Taliban militants were known to be prevalent even though the Pakistani security forces insisted that they had been flushed out.
The usual practice for development work in Dir and Swat called for Pakistani aid workers or paramilitary soldiers to visit the sites, he said.
The Americans’ involvement in training Frontier Corps recruits in development assistance was little known until Wednesday’s attack.
“People are going to be very suspicious,” said Mr. Aziz, who is now involved in American assistance projects elsewhere. “There is going to be big blowback in the media.”
An American development official said that encouraging the Frontier Corps to become expert in humanitarian aid was an important part of the trainers’ counterinsurgency curriculum.
Last summer, for example, the American military trainers helped distribute food and water in camps for the more than one million people displaced from the
The 500,000-strong Pakistani Army led by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the standard-bearer of
Over the last several years, as the Qaeda-backed insurgents increased their hold on Pakistan’s tribal areas and used their base to attack American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the United States military asked for permission for combat soldiers to operate in the tribal zone, according to American officials.
Whether American soldiers are based in
The question of the presence of American soldiers in
Capt. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for the United States Central Command in
The three names of the soldiers killed were not released Wednesday because
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs