US Forces in Bangladesh: Some questions

Mar 11, 2012

Based on a BBC report The Daily Star, in its March 5 issue reported that US Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard at a Congressional hearing stated: "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." The immediate denial/clarification given by the newly arrived but flamboyant US Ambassador Mr. Dan Mozena said that "there is no question of US bases in Bangladesh. US special forces come here often for various purposes and leave. We have cooperation with Bangladesh and it is all about partnership. It is a small team coming and going."

The ambassador further claimed that Bangladesh is "a land of hope" and some people did not share the vision of a Golden Bangladesh and sought to destroy the Bangladesh of peace, tolerance, harmony and democracy. "These people seek to impose their own values of hatred and intolerance on Bangladesh. We call these people terrorists. These terrorists are the enemy of Bangladesh, of America and of every democracy in the world."

The above statement of the ambassador raises many questions in our mind. First of all, we are taken by surprise that the "coming and going" of US forces has never been disclosed by our government. The country came to know about it when the Congressional hearing of the Commander of the US Pacific Forces disclosed this. Is it possible to contain "terrorists" and "enemies" in the country without taking the people into confidence or can the government fight terrorism without carrying the people with them so that people's participation, which is a sine qua non for eliminating enemies of the country, is ensured?

Secondly, it seems that the US government is more concerned about the existence of terrorist groups in Bangladesh than the Bangladesh government itself and its people. The ambassador has been very candid and explicit but our government is not. Why?

Thirdly, are there any existence of such powerful terrorist groups in the country which are threats to America and all democracies in the world as apprehended by the ambassador? If so, why didn't the government share this very important and angerous information with the people? Why have these groups not been identified clearly and taken to task. What action has the government taken so far to destroy them? The people have the right to know.

Fourthly, are there any agreements between the two governments on working together to fight the terrorists and enemies of the country? If so, has it been placed in the parliament as required by article 145A of the constitution?

Fifthly, is it a fact that the enemies of the country are very powerful for which the government was compelled to seek the assistance from America? Who are our enemies? The people should be told and warned about them in clear terms.

Sixthly, the elimination of terrorists and enemies of the country is primarily the responsibility of the Police. Why do the members of American forces come and go and not the FBI or other such organisations including the intelligence agencies. Why combat forces? Who are being trained here -- the armed forces or the police?

Finally, the Ambassador has said that the American special forces come to Bangladesh for various purposes. What are those "various purposes?"

To dispel all doubts, the government should issue "A Press Note" clarifying the position. We should bear in mind that raising a false alarm is dangerous.

Courtesy: The Daily Star, 9 March 2012

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