Washington, July 21 (ANI): In a significant move which highlights the deepening US worries concerning the terror threat emanating from Pakistan, US Special Operations Forces have been allowed to operate alongside their local counterparts in the country.
US officials revealed that that the Special Operations teams join the Pakistani troops on aid missions only when commanders determine that there is relatively little security risk.
The U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves and return fire if attacked. But the official emphasized the joint missions aren't supposed to be combat operations, and the Americans often participate in civilian garb, The Wall Street Journal reports.
This is an important move considering Pakistan's long stated objection to allowing any foreign troops from operating on its soil.
Admitting that the special US commandoes have started accompanying their Pakistani colleagues on aid missions, Pakistan officials said that Washington has been clearly told that troops must maintain a "low profile."
"Going out in the open, that has negative optics, that is something we have to work out. This whole exercise could be counterproductive if people see U.S. boots on the ground," the newspaper quoted a Pakistani official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity due to the sensitive topic, as saying.
Despite Pakistan's denial over allowing any foreign troops on its soil, the presence of US commandoes has increased substantially in the country, and according to reports today, America has about 120 trainers in the country.
"The program is set to expand again with new joint missions to oversee small-scale development projects aimed at winning over tribal leaders," officials familiar with the plan said.
In Pakistan, the U.S. military helps train both the regular military and the Frontier Corps, a force drawn from residents of the tribal regions but led by Pakistani Army officers.
A senior US military official also claimed that the Special Operations Forces have developed a closer relationship with the Frontier Corps, and go out into the field more frequently with those units.
"The Frontier Corps are more accepting partners," the official said. (ANI)