US Forces in Sri Lanka

US Special Forces teams are currently stationed in five South Asian countries including Sri Lanka as part of the counter-terrorism co-operation with these nations, a top Pentagon commander has disclosed.

These teams have been deployed by US Pacific Command as part of its effort to enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities, in particular in the maritime domain, Admiral Robert Willard, the PACOM Commander said yesterday.

“We have currently special forces assist teams – Pacific assist teams is the term – laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India,” Willard told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in response to a question on co-operation with India on counter-terrorism issues. “We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily DOD (Department of Defence) but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges,” Willard said. Willard said, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) is a very dangerous organisation.

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,” he said. The PACOM Commander was responding to a question from Congressman Joe Wilson as to what effort is being made to counter threat from LeT. In his prepared statement, Willard told lawmakers that the US and India are working together on contain LeT. “Responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai, LeT is headquartered in Pakistan, affiliated with al-Qaeda and other VEOs, and contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires to operate against Asia, Europe and North America,” Willard said.

He said Pacific Command’s Indian Engagement Initiative that resourced and hosted Mumbai counter terrorist specialists for training exercises and exchanges throughout the US, together with capacity-building activities with South Asian partners are mainly focused on containing LeT and contributing to CT self-sufficiency of the sub-region’s militaries. (PTI)