US to train Pakistan military officers
U.S. trainers will travel to Pakistan this year to teach military officials counterinsurgency techniques to aid soldiers along the Afghan border in the fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants, U.S. officials said Sunday. ( AP )
The training will also leave the Pakistani border force better able to cooperate with U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, a U.S. military official said.
Twenty-two U.S. trainers will arrive in "drips and drabs" this year and could be in place as soon as June or as late as October, the military official said on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Militant attacks have increased sharply in Pakistan's border region in the last year. More than 40 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the North West Frontier Province on Sunday, the third suicide blast in the region in as many days.
Rising attacks in Pakistan have led to a corresponding drop in attacks across the border in eastern Afghanistan - where the majority of the 28,000 American troops in the country are based. But officials are worried the increasing instability is allowing al-Qaida to re-establish a presence in the border region.
President Pervez Musharraf - who has struggled to hold on to power over the last year - was the head of the military until late November, when he stepped down. U.S. officials believe Musharraf's political troubles have distracted him from the fight against militancy.
The U.S. trainers will primarily assist Pakistan military officials who will then do the actual training of the Frontier Corps, said Elizabeth Colton, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
The initial plans call for some 8,500 Frontier Corps members to benefit from the U.S. training, said the military official. Current plans call for the American personnel to be in Pakistan for up to two years.
The Pakistani army is having trouble dealing with the rising insurgency in part because the army is set up to defend Pakistan from outside invaders and not counterinsurgency warfare, the official said.
The military official said a report in the New York Times on Sunday saying up to 100 U.S. personnel would help train the Frontier Corps overstated the number involved. He said plans called for 22 trainers to travel to Pakistan.
The official refused to say what units the American personnel would be drawn from.
The Pakistan army - which is primarily ethnic Punjabi - is seen as a foreign force in Pakistan's border region, which is ethnic Pashtun.
The U.S. military official said it was necessary to train the indigenous Pashtun force that makes up the Frontier Corps so that the local population regards it and supports it as their own force.