The deaths of three elite US soldiers in a Taliban suicide attack in Pakistan Feb. 3 revealed the existence of military assistance program that authorities have sought to keep quiet. The soldiers were among some 100 members of a Special Forces team that trains Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency techniques.
Dozens of teenage girls were caught up in the blast outside their secondary school in Lower Dir, NWFP. Three girls were killed, along with one Frontier Corps member. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack. “We will continue such attacks on Americans,” Azam Tariq told Reuters.
At least 12 other US service members have been killed in Pakistan since 9-11 in hotel bombings and accidents, according to the US Central Command, but the three soldiers were the first killed as part of the special operations training, which has been under way for the past 18 months. (NYT, The Guardian, Feb. 3)
In December, an anonymous former NATO official told The Guardian that US Special Forces have conducted multiple clandestine raids into Pakistan’s tribal areas between 2003 and 2008. The officer said the incursions, only one of which has been previously reported, involved helicopter-borne elite soldiers stealing across the border at night. After the only publicly acknowledged raid in September 2008, Pakistan’s foreign office condemned it as “a grave provocation,” while the military threatened retaliatory action. (The Guardian, Dec. 21)
See our last post on Pakistan.