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New Al-CIAda To Fight Old Al-CIAda

U.S. creating gangs of mercenaries to fight Taliban, Al Qaeda

Kavkaz Center
November 19, 2007

The US is considering a plan to create gangs of mercenaries from local population in the border areas of Pakistan to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, emulating its tactics in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The plan would involve increasing the number of US trainers in Pakistan by dozens from the current number of around 50, and the direct financing of a separate tribal “paramilitary force” that has so far proved largely ineffective. Washington would also pay militias that agreed to fight al-Qaida and foreign “extremists”.

The plan, leaked to the New York Times, comes amid increasing concern over gains made by Islamic rebels in the region of Swat, near the Afghan border. In recent weeks, major battles have left many Pakistani soldiers, rebels and civilians dead.

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said one of the main reasons for imposing emergency rule was to deal with the growing threat from Islamic rebels.

The tribal proposal – a strategy paper prepared by staff members of the US special operations command – has been circulated to counterterrorism experts, but has yet to be formally approved by the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the Times said.

Some other elements of the campaign, approved in principle by the US and Pakistan, await funding.

They include 0m (£170.7m) over several years to help train and equip the frontier corps, a “paramilitary force” that has around 85,000 members and is recruited from border tribes.

In the past, the US has expressed frustration at Musharraf’s tactics in dealing with rebels in the border area, especially a truce, agreed earlier this year, which has backfired, with pro-Taliban forces becoming stronger.

 

Pentagon: Double funds for Pakistani force

AP
November 21, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon wants to nearly double the funding to train and equip a Pakistani paramilitary force, saying the locally-based fighters are more effective in the difficult region bordering Afghanistan.

The U.S. military has asked to spend $97 million in 2008, compared with $52.6 million this year, on training and equipping the Frontier Corps, which has personnel of the same ethnicity as the recalcitrant tribes along the border.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the U.S. is not arming the Frontier Corps, but is spending money to build a training center in the region for the fighters while also looking for additional funds to buy them equipment such as helmets, vests and night-vision goggles.

The increased effort comes as violence along the border continues to escalate, raising questions about how long the Pakistanis can continue to battle the pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda militants known to be hiding in the rugged mountains.

“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 (Pakistan) army, who is not viewed with the same respect in that part of the country as is the Frontier Corps,” Morrell said.

It is more effective, he said, to deal with the Frontier Corps because it is made up of people who are “locally recruited and have local knowledge, language skills and most of all credibility with the people who live in those areas.”

The 2007 funding is being used to set up eight new Frontier Corps battalions, and the 2008 money would continue the training and equipping efforts as well as set up an additional four battalions. Morrell said the U.S. Army expects to provide the trainers, but some other governments may also participate.

“I don’t think we would be proceeding with a plan of this nature, at this cost, unless we had some degree of confidence that it would be fruitful,” Morrell said, describing the program as a joint venture with the Pakistani government.

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has said his government will provide the fighters with tanks and guns so they can take a lead role next year, allowing the country’s army to take a more supporting role.

Morrell said the Pentagon is also hoping to establish border surveillance centers, and is moving ahead with plans for one on the Afghan side of the border. The 2008 money is tied up in the war funding legislation that has stalled in Congress, he said.

Morrell added that the money will not be used to buy ammunition or weapons for the Frontier Corps, and will only buy equipment that will help them patrol the region.

The retooling of the Frontier Corps is part of a strategy that includes flooding northwestern Pakistan with development aid and propping up beleaguered pro-government elders, dozens of whom have been killed as American spies by militants.

The government hopes that approach will be more effective than a series of peace deals struck in 2005 and 2006 under which tribal leaders were supposed to curb militancy in return for a withdrawal of troops after earlier rounds of bloody fighting.

 


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