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U.S plans to arm Pakistani paramilitaries

by Malaysia Sun Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007 at 9:42 AM

The New York Times has reported that U.S. military officials want to enlist Pakistani paramilitaries along the border with Afghanistan. At a military strategy meeting of the United States Special Operations Command, the strategy was formulated as a means of expanding the ongoing battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Tuesday 20th November, 2007

The strengthening and expansion of Pakistani soldiers on the border would require higher approval and would involve a paramilitary force of approximately 85,000 tribal soldiers.

The build up would also dramatically increase U.S. presence and influence in the region, and cost of over US0 million.

Critics are concerned weapons given to Pakistani soldiers could eventually find their way to Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, who have similar ethnic ties to some of the soldiers.

The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan.

Pentagon Draws Up Plans for Pakistani Fighting Corps


Posted 11/19/07 19:31

The Pentagon plans to train and equip an expanded paramilitary force in Pakistan’s tribal areas in a major effort to counter the growing strength of al-QaIda and Taliban forces, officials said Nov. 19.

U.S. Army troops will be used to train the Pakistani Frontier Corps at a new center in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

The efforts come amid political instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan under President Pervez Musharraf and mounting U.S. concerns over the spread of Islamic militancy.

It was unclear how many military trainers will be required, but any increase would significantly boost the U.S. military presence in Pakistan, which currently numbers only about 50 military personnel, including embassy guards.

It also marks a shift in favor of a locally recruited paramilitary force that many have considered unreliable because it is drawn from Pashtun tribes sympathetic to the Taliban.

“We believe that, particularly in this part of Pakistan, it is more effective to work with a force raised from locals than it is to work with the Pak army,” Morrell said.

The Pakistani army, he said, “is not viewed with the same kind of respect in that part of the country as is the Frontier Corps, which is comprised of people who know the language and who have grown up in the area, and have relations with tribal leaders there.”

The Pentagon actually began investing in the Frontier Corps in fiscal year 2007, when the 80,000 member force was expanded by eight battalions and supplied with U.S. helmets and vests, Morrell said.

Plans call for the addition of four more battalions in fiscal year 2008, the establishment of joint Pakistani-Afghan surveillance stations along the border, and establishment of the joint training center.

The Pakistani military will provide weapons and ammunition for the force, he said. But the US military will train the force and provide it non-lethal equipment, he said.

“The Pakistani government is totally on board with this,” Morrell said.

It was unclear how much the five year security program will cost, but Morrell said the Pentagon is seeking 97 million dollars for this fiscal year.

It spent 52.6 million dollars on the force in fiscal 2007.

The New York Times, which reported Nov. 19 on the Pentagon plans, put the cost for the Frontier Corps expansion at about 0 million over several years.

“Our initiatives this year will be to develop four new battalions, to establish headquarters for those battalions, (and) integrate those border surveillance centers,” Morrell said.

He said it is not known how many U.S. Army trainers will be available because they are in high demand. So the Pentagon is looking to use foreign military trainers as well, he said.

U.S. military training of the Pakistani military has been limited until now to air assault training, said Bryan Whitman, another Pentagon spokesman, who said U.S. funding for that fell from 27 million in fiscal year 2006 to 5.3 million in fiscal 2007.

Additionally, the U.S. Special Operations Command is developing separate plans to increase the counter-terrorism cooperation with the Pakistani military and to boost their capabilities, Whitman said.

But that has not yet been sent up the military chain of the command for approval, he said.

The planning stems from a visit to Pakistan in August by Vice Adm. Eric Olson, the head of the command.

It involved “capabilities that would help pursue the type of disruptive influences that are in Pakistan, without going into specifics,” Whitman said.

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