Washington, Dec 21 (ANI): Senior US military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan's tribal areas.
The proposal, reflecting the growing US frustration with Pakistan's efforts to root out militants there, would escalate military activities inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash, The New York Times reports.
Although the plan has not yet been approved, military and political leaders say that a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold, as the deadline approaches for the Obama administration to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan.
Even with the risks, military commanders said that using US Special Operations troops could bring an intelligence windfall, if militants were captured, brought back across the border into Afghanistan and interrogated.
The decision to expand US military activity in Pakistan, which would almost certainly have to be approved by President Obama himself, would amount to the opening of a new front in the nine-year-old war, which has grown increasingly unpopular among Americans, the paper said.
It would run the risk of angering the Pakistan government that has been an uneasy ally in the war in Afghanistan, particularly if it leads to civilian casualties or highly public confrontations, it added.
US officers said that they were particularly eager to capture, as opposed to kill, militant leaders, who they said could offer intelligence to guide future operations, according to the paper.
"We've never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across," said one senior American officer.
Ground operations in Pakistan, however, remain controversial in Washington, and there may be a debate over the proposal.
One senior administration official said he was not in favour of cross-border operations, which he said have been generally "counterproductive" unless they were directed against top leaders of Al Qaeda, and expressed concern that political fallout in Pakistan could negate any tactical gains.
Still, as evidence mounts that Pakistani troops are unlikely to stage a major offensive into the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, where Al Qaeda's top leaders are thought to be taking shelter, US commanders have renewed their push for approval to send American commando teams into Pakistan.
It is noteworthy that even before finalizing any plans to increase raids across the Pakistan border, the Obama administration has already stepped up its air assaults in the tribal areas with an unprecedented number of CIA drone strikes this year.
Since September, the spy agency has carried out more than 50 drone attacks in North Waziristan and elsewhere- compared with 60 strikes in the preceding eight months. (ANI)