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Terrorism & Security

U.S. military prepares to train Pakistani forces

US officials have requested $750 million to expand a program designed to assist foreign militaries engaged in counterterrorism.

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Pakistan's Frontier Corps, as well as the Pakistani Army, have come under increased attack in recent months, suffering several hundred casualties in a spate of suicide attacks. And in a battle with Taliban militants in Swat Valley last fall, poorly trained Frontier Corpsmen were killed in large numbers or fled without fighting, prompting alarm from many observers, including the editors of Foreign Policy magazine, who wrote, "Desertion is becoming a serious problem in the ranks of the Frontier Corps, the locally recruited paramilitary force that has been on the front lines of Pakistan's fight against insurgents in its tribal areas."

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US military trainers on Pakistani soil is not a new thing, The New York Times explained in an article last month. But their numbers are set to rise significantly.

For several years, small teams of American Special Operations forces have trained their Pakistani counterparts in counterinsurgency tactics. But the 40-page classified plan now under review at the United States Central Command to help train the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from ethnic groups on the border, would significantly increase the size and scope of the American training role in the country.
United States trainers initially would be restricted to training compounds, but with Pakistani consent could eventually accompany Pakistani troops on missions "to the point of contact" with militants, as American trainers now do with Iraqi troops in Iraq, a senior American military official said. Britain is also considering a similar training mission in Pakistan, officials said.

But American troops stationed in Afghanistan's border region appear to harbor suspicions about the Frontier Corps, The Washington Post reported.

"The Frontier Corps might as well be Taliban.... They are active facilitators of infiltration," said a U.S. soldier who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Many Pakistani analysts and leaders have warned that a larger US military footprint could lead to a backlash from the public in Pakistan, the British newspaper the Guardian reports.

"They are making a big mistake. With the Frontier Corps they are going to put people to fight against their kith and kin. It will create a greater problem," said General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's spy agency.

But some Pakistani observers see the proposed new training program as a welcome and vital change, writes Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, a Pakistani scholar and US foreign policy researcher, in Newsweek's PostGlobal blog.

The current U.S. plan to increase the training of Pakistani troops – paratroopers, Pakistani Special Forces, and Frontier Corps – is a step in the right direction. U.S. training programs must be supplemented by U.S. military hardware and intelligence exchange across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. A unilateral U.S. attack on Pakistan's rustic tribal areas, however, will be devastatingly unsustainable and counterproductive.

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