Special US unit can enter Pakistan at will to hunt Osama
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
Islamabad, Sept 11, IRNA
A special US unit now has the authority to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan without having to seek permission first, according to two US officials.
According to the "Daily times", Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operates on the understanding with Pakistan that US units will not enter Pakistan, except under extreme circumstances, and that Pakistan will deny giving them permission.
This is what happened in January 2006, when the JSOC troops clandestinely entered the village of Saidgai, two officials familiar with the operation said, and Pakistan protested.
The authority, one knowledgeable person said, follows the target: if the target is bin Laden, the stakes are high enough for McChrystal to decide any action on his own.
The JSOC has been given more resources from the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies.
President Bush recently directed the team to flood the zone or intensify the search for bin Laden.
The resources of the special group in terms of personnel and materials were also increased.
However, no one is certain where the zone is.
Gary Berntsen, the former CIA officer who led the first and last hunt for bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001, told the Post, This could all end tomorrow.
One unsolicited walk-in, one tribesman seeking to collect the $25 million reward, one courier who would rather his kids grow up in the US, one dealmaker, and this could all change, he said.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the newspaper that For technical intelligence ISI works hand in hand with the NSA (National Security Agency).
The US assistance in building Pakistan's capabilities for technical intelligence since 9/11 is superb.
Since early 2002, the US is said to have stationed a small number of NSA and CIA personnel near where bin Laden may be hiding.
They are embedded with counter terrorism units of the Pakistan army's elite Special Services Group, according to senior Pakistani intelligence officials.
The NSA and other specialists collect imagery and electronic intercepts that their CIA counterparts then share with the Pakistani units in the tribal areas and with Balochistan.
But even with sophisticated technology, the local geography presents formidable obstacles.
The army lost its best source of intelligence in 2004, after it began raids inside the tribal areas.
Scouts with blood ties to the tribes ceased sharing information for fear of retaliation.
The report says that Pakistani and US counter terrorism and military officials admit that Pakistan has now all but stopped looking for bin Laden.
The dirty little secret is, they have nothing, no operations, without the Pakistanis, one former counter terrorism officer said.
Last week's truce with the Taliban that calls on the insurgent Afghan group to end armed attacks inside Pakistan and to stop crossing into Afghanistan to fight the government and international troops has created unease in Washington.
Pakistan will permit only small numbers of US forces to operate with its troops at times and, because their role is so sensitive politically, it officially denies any US presence.
A frequent complaint from US troops is that they have too little to do.
The same complaint is also heard from US forces in Afghanistan, were there were few targets to go after.