NATO says there is no truth to a newspaper report that American forces are pushing to expand special operations raids into tribal areas of Pakistan, where Islamist militants are known to find refuge.
Nevertheless, said spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, "the ISAF and U.S. Forces, along with their Afghan partners have developed a strong working relationship with the Pakistani military to address shared security issues."
Citing unnamed American officials in Washington, The New York Times reported on its website late Monday that U.S. military commanders believed special operations forces could capture militants inside Pakistan for interrogation.
"This coordination recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and Pakistan to pursue insurgents and terrorists operating in their respective border areas. Cross-border coordination has and continues to disrupt and dismantle insurgent networks in select areas, with significant operations on both sides of the border removing large numbers of insurgent leaders and fighters," a statement quoted Smith as saying.
According to the Times, America’s clandestine war in Pakistan has for the most part been carried out by armed drones operated by the CIA. In recent years, the U.S. military has carried out a small number of incursions into Pakistan, most of them by air. Pakistan has previously protested when the U.S.-led alliance has crossed the border into Pakistani tribal areas, and rejected suggestions it had accepted U.S. assistance.
According to the Times, American military officers appear confident that a shift in policy could allow for more routine incursions.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have been fraught of late. Two months ago, citing NATO helicopter incursions into its territory, Pakistan shut down the main border crossing into Afghanistan for 10 days, cutting the main NATO resupply route.
On the Afghan side of the border in recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in targeted raids by U.S. special operations forces backed by Afghan commandos. Strikes have been concentrated in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.