February 8, 2008

U.S. advisors training Pakistani Special Forces

"The assistance should be seen as an important step to counteract the rise of fanatics who have driven some of the more moderate tribal leaders out of the region. Without U.S. assistance, these radicals may be too powerful for Pakistan alone to subdue."

In a move that authenticates the argument that the U.S. is more than just concerned about Al Qaeda operations within Pakistan. The Associated Press has just reported a U.S. military role inside Pakistani borders.

Only yesterday, Vickers said, “U.S. military has not yet begun training Pakistani forces to fight Islamist militants but is already seeking a larger assistance role, including possible joint operations.”

However today the tune is different, “U.S. military advisers are helping the Pakistanis double the size of their elite commando force in a continuing effort to blunt the rising threat of terror groups and anti-government militants operating in Pakistan's unruly tribal areas, a senior Defense Department official said.”

The senior defense official is Mike Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. Vickers is also a “senior civilian advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense on the capabilities and operational employment of special operations forces, strategic forces, and conventional forces. He is also the senior civilian advisor on counterterrorism strategy, irregular warfare, and force transformation.”

“The U.S. military presence in the country is fewer than 100 people, said the official, Mike Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and is focused on what he called "targeted training." That includes assisting Pakistan's Special Service Group and teaching specialized fighting techniques, like helicopter assaults.”

The report also cites that “U.S. intelligence agencies maintain that Osama bin Laden ... “is in the tribal area, a swath of rugged land that runs along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.”

"We have certain capabilities that we can do in a low-visibility manner that can enhance the operations of Pakistani forces," Vickers said. Those capabilities could include night vision devices, air transport, and sophisticated gear for gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance."

No doubt, the training programme forms part of the $750 million aid package to assist Pakistan for development of the tribal region, as announced in July 2007 and comes in addition to Pakistan's pledge of $1 billion over the next decade for the same reasons.

Given the open support many Pakistanis have for Al Qaeda it will be interesting to note how news of a U.S. military presence, albeit a small one, is taken by a populace that is also sympathetic to the “Taliban or other militant groups.”

Aside from these issues, it is in both America’s and the world’s interests that Pakistani forces be adequately trained and supported to confront the growing menace of terrorism.

As noted in the article, “Defense Department officials told members of Congress on Wednesday that Al Qaeda was operating from havens in "undergoverned regions" of Pakistan, which they said pose direct threats to Europe, the United States and the Pakistani government itself. Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted in written testimony that the next attack on the United States probably would be made by terrorists based in that region."

The assistance should be seen as an important step to counteract the rise of fanatics who have driven some of the more moderate tribal leaders out of the region. Without U.S. assistance, these radicals may be too powerful for Pakistan alone to subdue.

Comments appreciated

11 comments:

Karen said...

The AP is no friend to the American military. They rival The NY Times for splashing reports when some restraint would be nice.

When I read "A Mighty Heart" by Mariane Pearl, widow of Wall Street Journal bureau chief in Pakistan, Danny Pearl, I was struck as to the impossible situation in Pakistan for Americans. al Qadea is on the rise again and the area where bin Laden is believed to be is so treacherous it is hard to think he will ever be brought to justice. At least McCain has been to the area, twice, so he has some first hand knowledge.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

A case could be made that this is Pakistan's last chance to stop fiddling about with caliphaters - attacking and then doing the hudna cease fire bit.

There have been several reports of cross border incursions by Americans as well as cruise missiles and inteliigent artillery fire brought down on their turf.

If this move fails to bring results it could the begining of an intervention by Great Satan in the Land of the Pure.

SwEeT!

Tapline said...

Otto, As usual an excellent post...I haven't read that much about Pac lately....I would think India would have some interest in that region, but What do I know....stay well.....

American Interests said...

Karen: The region you refer to is certainly not recommended for the uninitiated. I could not think of a more treacherous place for U.S. servicemen. Let's hope it does not come to that; active intervention that is.

GSGF: My word, a case ought be made given the investment and resources thrown there way...an intervention by the Great Satan must be unequivocal and massive ... the region is most treacherous...what of political will?

American Interests said...

tap: What would you know? India would indeed have a shared interest in proceedings if matters escalated...Your words always appreciated here tap...

DD2 aka Debonair Dude said...

Otto, The troops will start out as advisors and trainers and soon we would be combatants, are we ready for that?
I'm not saying that I'm against that, I'm just throwing it out there.

American Interests said...

dd2: Not sure I am comfortable with that, we shall see...Thanks for coming around!!!

subadei said...

Pakistan has the daunting task of unraveling decades of support for the very factions they now oppose. A loose analogy might be if the US suddenly cut ties to Israel and tossed our support behind Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas.

MK said...

On the plus side Obama should be alright with this, didn't he call for the invasion of Pakistan, right after surrendering Iraq to whoever wants her.

I just hope they train the right guys, don't forget that even some elements of the Pakistani military are allied to the Jihadists.

Jeff said...

I think we've been training Pakistani special forces for some time now. But Subadei's comment is to the point. Pakistani forces prior to our invasion of Afghanistan, worked for years with Afghan factions, like the Taliban. The strong ties of loyalty must still be there.

American Interests said...

subadei, mk and jeff: Praiseworthy discourse my friends ... have highlighted some of the many complexities that need be weighed in the region ...