WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency runs an Afghan paramilitary force that hunts down Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in covert operations in Pakistan, a US official said Wednesday.
Confirming an account in a new book by famed reporter Bob Woodward, the US official told AFP that the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams were highly effective but did not offer details.
“This is one of the best Afghan fighting forces and it’s made major contributions to stability and security,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The 3,000-strong paramilitary army of Afghan soldiers was created and bankrolled by the CIA and was designed as an “elite” unit to pursue “highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan” in the fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries, according to The Washington Post, which revealed details of the new book.
US President Barack Obama has sought to pile pressure on militant havens in Pakistan through a stepped up bombing campaign using unmanned aircraft as well as US special forces’ operations in Afghan territory.
The administration also has pressed the Pakistani army to go after the Taliban and associated groups in the northwest tribal belt.
Revelations about a US-run unit operating in Pakistan are sure to complicate Washington’s ties with Islamabad as well as Kabul’s difficult relations with Pakistan.
The US military’s presence in Afghanistan and its secretive drone strikes across the border are the subject of sharp public criticism and suspicion in Pakistan.
Based on interviews with top decision makers, including Obama himself, Woodward’s book describes the US president as struggling to find a way to extricate US troops from the Afghan war amid acrimonious debate among advisers and resistance from the military.