Friday, March 2, 2012

US special forces in 5 South Asian countries

A top Pentagon commander has said that US special forces teams are currently stationed in five South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, as part of the counter-terrorism co-operation with these nations.

"We have currently special forces assist teams laid down in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and India as part of the effort to enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities," US Pacific Command admiral Robert Willard told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

He said that these teams have been deployed by US Pacific Command to improve these countries counter-terrorism capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain, India's state-run news agency PTI reported.

In the Congressional hearing, Willard introduced Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (Let) as a very dangerous organisation. He said, "It not only has very good operational security, but also a lot of international design in terms of their aspirations."

"So it is a very important threat, and we're working very closely with the nations in the region to help contain it."

Responding to a question from congressman Joe Wilson, the PACOM commander said, "Responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai, LeT is headquartered in Pakistan. It's also affiliated with al-Qaeda and other Violent Extremist Organisations (VEO) and contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires to operate against Asia, Europe and North America."

Willard said that South Asia, anchored by India, comprises of major sea lines of communication for the transport of energy and other commerce to Asia and the Americas from the Middle East and Europe. He said, "South Asia as a whole is of major strategic importance to the US and the security partnerships are increasingly vital to the US Pacific Command's mission."

He also mentioned that these US Special Forces teams engaged throughout these five South Asian countries are assisting and training their respective militaries to counter and contain VEOs, such as LeT; cooperating in maritime security activities, such as countering piracy; conducting disaster response planning and training; and exercising extensively, service to service.

Bangladesh, he said, has emerged as a particularly effective partner in the fight against terror and is cooperating with India as well as the US to counter VEO activity by actors such as the LeT.

"Further, Bangladesh's military is advancing its capabilities and contributes broadly to UN peacekeeping operations," he added.

US Special Forces teams are also stationed in another South Asian country Pakistan to fight terrorism in Afghanistan.