Rajan Pokhrel


Kathmandu: A top Pentagon Commander has said that the United States has stationed its Special Forces team of the US Pacific Command in Nepal to contain violent extremist forces.


During a Congressional hearing yesterday, Admiral Robert F Willard, the US Pacific Command Commander, said, “We have currently special forces assist teams — Pacific Assist Teams is the term — laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India as part of counter-terrorism cooperation with these nations.” The commander, however, stopped short of disclosing details of the Nepal-based US forces.


According to reports, Willard was responding to a question from Congressman Joe Wilson as to what efforts were being made to counter threat from Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Terry White, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Kathmandu, however, denied there was a team of US Special Forces stationed in Nepal. “But, members of the US Special Forces occasionally visit Nepal to assist in training, capacity building and humanitarian activities of the national army,” White told this daily.


But the government’s intelligence and security agencies said they had no idea about US Special Forces being laid down in Nepal.


Nepali Army Spokesperson Brig Gen Ramindra Chhetri said both the Nepali and US militaries were involved in joint training exercises and other exchange programmes. According to Chhetri, NA shares its skills on high altitude rescue with the US troops at NA’s Mountain Warfare Training School in Mustang as part of military cooperation between Nepal and the US. “Besides that we don’t have any information on Pacific Assist Teams’ presence in Nepal,” he added.


However, Admiral Willard said USPACOM engages throughout South Asia assisting the armies of the countries in the region to counter and contain Violent Extremist Organisations such as LeT, cooperating in maritime security activities, conducting disaster response planning and training and exercising extensively.


“South Asia is home to a confluence of challenges, including nuclear armed rivals India and Pakistan, trans-national VEOs such as LeT, piracy, trafficking in narcotics and persons, disputed borders and insurgent movements that have plagued India, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” said Willard.


The Himalayan, March 6, 2012

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