"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.