Pakistan army denies U.S. troops were in northwest

Reuters News
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Posted: May 22, 2011 12:28 AM
Pakistan army denies U.S. troops were in northwest

(Reuters) - Pakistan's military has denied a report that U.S. special forces were embedded with Pakistani troops for intelligence- gathering missions in the northwest of the country.

The local Dawn newspaper said on Saturday it obtained secret dispatches from WikiLeaks that revealed that U.S. special forces were deployed with Pakistani troops in joint operations in Pakistan by September of 2009.

A spokesman from the Pakistani military's media relations department categorically denied the presence of American troops in North and South Waziristan.

Waziristan, part of Pakistan's unruly Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), is seen as a global hub for militants, including al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban factions which cross the border to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"No U.S. troops are involved in any military operations in FATA," said the spokesman.

The WikiLeaks cables could hurt the powerful Pakistani military's image.

It faced rare criticism after a secret U.S. special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not far from the capital Islamabad this month.

The army condemned the assault, which has severely strained ties between the two countries, as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. But Pakistanis lashed out at the country's generals because they did not know about the raid.

Anti-American sentiment runs high in Pakistan, partly because of U.S. drone aircraft strikes on militants, which are regarded as a violation of the U.S. ally's sovereignty and have killed civilians.

The disclosure of the alleged U.S. troop deployments came a day after another set of cables showed that Pakistan's powerful army chief not only tacitly agreed to the covert U.S. drone campaign against militants, but asked for "continuous Predator coverage" of the tribal areas by these aircraft. The army denied the contents.

(Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)