US may enlist Pak tribes to combat al Qaeda

November 19th, 2007 - 1:24 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 19 (ANI): The US military has proposed the enlisting of tribal leaders to contain the Taliban and al Qaeda, senior US military officials have revealed.

If this proposal is accepted, it might expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, and would also directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force, the International Herald Tribune quoted the officials, as saying.

According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the US has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, but it could grow by dozens with the new approach.

Drawing a parallel with the US troops success in Iraqs Anbar Province, this new proposal has been drafted.

But it raises the question of whether such partnerships can be forged without a significant American military presence on the ground in Pakistan. And it is unclear whether enough support can be found among the tribes, the daily said in its report.

Staff members of the United States Special Operations Command have drafted the report, and had circulated to counter terrorism experts. The command’s headquarters is yet to give its nod to the proposal.

“The face on this would be a local one,” said one person who has been briefed on the proposal. But that person cautioned that whether a significant number of tribal leaders joined an American-backed effort carried out by Pakistani forces was “the 64,000 dollars question.”

Some other elements of the campaign have been approved in principle by the Americans and Pakistanis and await financing, including 350 million dollars over several years to help train and equip the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that currently has about 85,000 members and is recruited from border tribes, the daily reported.

According to American officials, these security improvements complemented a package of assistance from the Agency for International Development and the State Department for the seven districts of the tribal areas that amounted to 750 million dollars over five years.

“The DOD is about to start funding the Frontier Corps,” one military official said, referring to the Department of Defense, adding, “We have only got a portion of that requested, but it is enough to start.”

The new counterinsurgency campaign is also a vivid example of the US military’s asserting a bigger role in a part of Pakistan that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has overseen almost exclusively since the September 11 attacks.

At the same time, military officials fear the assistance to develop a counterinsurgency force is too little too late. “The advantage is already in the enemy hands,” one Western military official said.

It can be recalled that in last a few weeks; pro-Taliban militants have extended their reach beyond the frontier areas into more settled areas, most notably the mountainous region of Swat.

A group of Pakistan experts convened in March by the Defence Intelligence Agency concluded that empowering tribal leaders could be an effective strategy to counter the rising influence of Islamic religious leaders and to weaken Al Qaeda.

But a report on the session found that such successes “would be difficult to achieve, particularly in the north (Bajaur) and south (North and South Waziristan).” (ANI)

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