Despite sustained denials by US officials spanning more than a year, US military Special Operations Forces have been conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan, helping direct US drone strikes and conducting joint operations with Pakistani forces against Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in north and south Waziristan and elsewhere in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to secret cables released as part of the Wikileaks document dump. According to an October 9, 2009 cable classified by Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, the operations were "almost certainly [conducted] with the personal consent of [Pakistan’s] Chief of Army Staff General Kayani." The operations were coordinated with the US Office of the Defense Representative in Pakistan. A US special operations source told The Nation that the US forces described in the cable as "SOC(FWD)-PAK" were "forward operating troops" from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most elite force within the US military made up of Navy SEALs, Delta Force and Army Rangers.
The cables also confirm aspects of a Nation story from November 2009, "The Secret US War in Pakistan," which detailed offensive combat operations by JSOC in Pakistan. In response to the Nation story, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell called it "conspiratorial" and explicitly denied that US special operations forces were doing anything other than "training" in Pakistan. More than a month after the October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Pakistan confirming JSOC combat missions, Morrell told reporters: "We have basically, I think, a few dozen forces on the ground in Pakistan who are involved in a train-the-trainer mission. These are Special Operations Forces. We’ve been very candid about this. They are—they have been for months, if not years now, training Pakistani forces so that they can in turn train other Pakistani military on how to—on certain skills and operational techniques. And that’s the extent of our—our, you know, military boots on the ground in Pakistan." According to the October 2009 cable, Morrell’s statement was false.
In one operation in September 2009, four US special operations forces personnel "embedded with the [Pakistani] Frontier Corps (FC)…in the FATA," where the Americans are described as providing "ISR": intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The support from the US forces, according to the cable, "was highly successful, enabling the FC to execute a precise and effective artillery strike on an enemy location." A month later, according to the cable, the Pakistan Army again "approved deployment of US special operation elements to support Pakistani military operations." To the embassy staff, this was documented in the cable as a "sea change" in Pakistan’s military leaders’ thinking, saying they had previously been "adamantly opposed [to] letting us embed" US special ops forces with Pakistani forces. According to the cable, "US special operation elements have been in Pakistan for more than a year, but were largely limited to a training role," adding that the Pakistani units that received training from US special operations forces "appear to have recognized the potential benefits of bringing US SOF personnel into the field with them."
In another operation cited in the cables, the US teams, led by JSOC, were described as providing support to the Pakistani Army’s 11th Corp and included "a live downlink of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) full motion video." Whether the drones were used for surveillance or as part of a joint offensive is unclear from the documents. While the US government will not confirm US drone strikes inside the country and Pakistani officials regularly deride the strikes, the issue of the drones was discussed in another cable from August 2008. That cable describes a meeting between Ambassador Patterson and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. When the issue of US drone strikes came up, according to the cable, Gillani said, "I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."