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Cross-border campaign report questioned by NATO, Pakistani diplomat

By the CNN Wire Staff
Pakistani soldiers patrol the country's tribal region in March.
Pakistani soldiers patrol the country's tribal region in March.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An officer says the "go-ahead" is close, The New York Times reports
  • Mostly, armed drones have been deployed in Pakistan, report says
  • Pakistani diplomat says Mullen didn't indicate such a plan
RELATED TOPICS
  • Pakistan
  • Afghanistan

(CNN) -- The NATO command in Afghanistan and a Pakistani diplomat took issue Tuesday with a news report that said some U.S. commanders are advocating "an expanded campaign" of cross-border Special Operations ground raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan's perilous tribal region.

The New York Times article, dated Monday, cited American officials in Washington and Afghanistan and quoted one senior American officer as saying "we've never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across."

The report says there have been only a few American incursions from Afghanistan into Pakistan and that the warfare in Pakistan "has for the most part been carried out by armed drones operated by the CIA."

The Times states the "plan has not yet been approved," but Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said "there is absolutely no truth to reporting in the New York Times that U.S. forces are planning to conduct ground operations into Pakistan."

He said ISAF, U.S. and Afghan forces "have developed a strong working relationship with the Pakistan military to address shared security issues."

"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."

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, didn't indicate "the likelihood of ill-advised escalation or unilateral action by NATO troops beyond their mandate in Afghanistan."

"The U.S. and Pakistani forces understand each other's terms of engagement well and have a very high level of cooperation as allies fighting a common enemy," said the ambassador.

"Pakistani forces are capable of handling the militant threat within our borders and no foreign forces are allowed or required to operate inside our sovereign territory. We work with our allies, especially the U.S., and appreciate their material support but we will not accept foreign troops on our soil -- a position that is well known," he told CNN.

The Times points out that the "movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash," but the Times said "U.S. commanders have renewed their push for approval to send American commando teams into Pakistan" because it appears that Pakistan's troops won't conduct an offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region.

The Times' sources said officers were formulating plans to kick off ground operations designed to seize or kill Taliban and Haqqani network leaders.