Posts Tagged ‘ Frontier Corps ’

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells

By David S Cloud for The Los Angeles Times

In a clear sign of Pakistan’s deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan’s demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan’s failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA’s ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and four others at a compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan’s military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington’s decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan’s security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

“There is lot of discontent within Pakistan’s armed forces with regard to the fact they’ve done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted,” Hussain said. “Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible.”

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army’s 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan’s southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps’ facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

“We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps” at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. “But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets.”

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a “U.S. Special Operations Command Force” was providing the Frontier Corps with “imagery, target packages and operational planning” in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified message that the fusion cells provided “enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations” and were “a significant step forward for the Pakistan military.”

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan’s reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked “dozens” of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.

Fight Against Extremists Stretches Pakistan’s Military

By Jim Garamone for The American Forces Press Service

Just as two wars over the last decade have stretch the U.S. Army thin, the Pakistani military is stretched by its fight against extremist groups along the country’s western border, senior defense officials said here today.

At any given time, roughly one-third of the Pakistani army is deployed along the border region. Another third is along Pakistan’s border with India, and the rest is in garrison training and re-equipping.

“There are units along the border that have been in the fight for two years,” said a senior defense official, speaking on background. “That’s a long time. They are stretched.”

While many in the United States want the Pakistani military to do more against terrorist groups in North Waziristan, the truth is it may not be able to do much more, the official said. Pakistani troops – including members of the Frontier Corps – are in Khyber province, South Waziristan and other areas of Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas. North Waziristan, specifically, is a safe haven for many senior Taliban leaders launching attacks in Afghanistan.

The military has launched a campaign against terrorists in Mohmond province – an area they cleared once, but where extremists have re-emerged. And that’s the problem, the official said: once the army clears an area – “and they do that quite well,” he said – the soldiers don’t have a force to turn it over to, and they’re forced to police the region. “The civil capacity does not exist in the region to hold the area,” the official said.

The civil capacity also does not exist to rebuild areas, and the army is stepping into the breach. “They are building schools and roads and water projects,” the official said. “This should be the job of civilian agencies, but they are not available.”

If Pakistan’s army could turn over the policing and development duties, troops would be available for further operations against the extremists, the official said, but they cannot.

The Pakistani military could deploy troops from the border with India to step up the fight against extremists, but Pakistan sees India – a nation with which it has fought four wars– as the foe. India and Pakistan have troops facing each other in Kashmir province. A solution to the dispute over Kashmir, which goes back to the founding of the two nations in 1947, could “unlock solutions” for Pakistan, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with Pakistani reporters.

It was a major move to deploy the Pakistani forces from the Indian border in 2008, and U.S. officials do not expect that to happen again.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials are worried about the spread of radicalism in the nation. While most incidents still are centered on the western border, many incidents have occurred in Balochistan, Sindh and even the Pakistani heartland of Punjab. “They even use the term Punjabi Taliban,” the official said. “And it concerns them.”

The United States is set to provide roughly $3 billion in aid to the Pakistani military in fiscal 2012, the defense official noted.

The Continuous Struggle Along Pakistan’s Frontier

By David Ignatius for The Wall Street Journal

In the same week when U.S. helicopters mistakenly killed three members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps near the Afghan border, American Special Forces were training members of that same force on how to use radios, sniper rifles and other counterinsurgency tools at a remote base here.

Pakistanis and Americans don’t talk much about this joint training camp, northwest of Peshawar about 20 miles from Afghanistan. But the program is a symbol of the weird duality of the relationship — a mix of public distance and private cooperation that’s awkward for both sides.

“We have good relations; it’s going very well,” Col. Ahsan Raza, the camp commander, said when I visited Tuesday afternoon, two days before the fatal U.S. cross-border attack. But the Pakistani commandant was eager not to appear too close to America, stressing that the U.S. trainers were supplying technical skills, not running the show.

Both sides view the program here as a success story. But the joint effort masks a tension that is only likely to deepen in coming months.

Pakistan wants to use the 70,000-strong Frontier Corps to stabilize the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, and halt the domestic Taliban insurgency. The United States, struggling in Afghanistan, wants Pakistan to help seal the border and destroy the sanctuaries used by al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The two sides talk as if their goals are identical, but they aren’t. The differing priorities became clear in conversations last week with Pakistani commanders.

Warsak is a pet project of Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the commander of the Frontier Corps. At his headquarters in the ancient Bala Hissar fortress in Peshawar, the traditional garb of the tribal “scouts,” as they’re called, makes you wonder whether the days of the British Raj ever really ended. Behind Khan’s desk is a plaque bearing the names of his predecessors back to 1907.

Khan argues that it’s time for Pakistan to move from big military offensives in the tribal areas to what he calls “policing” actions. “No steamroller operations,” he says.

Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who commands the Pakistani army in the western border areas and is Khan’s boss, makes the same point. “Don’t expect major new kinetic operations,” he says. “We have changed gears to a softer approach.”

This can’t be comforting to Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He is said to have concluded, after several months in Kabul, that more Pakistani pressure on the havens is crucial for American success. That’s the basic conflict — an overstretched America wants a Pakistani surge in the tribal areas; an overstretched Pakistan just wants to keep the peace.

Khan’s strategy is an updated version of the old British approach: work through the tribal chiefs, or maliks, keep the roads open and pound any renegades back into line. He wants to maintain order through three tiers of force: local militias, known as “levies,” recruited by the maliks; the Frontier Corps dispersed across the FATA; and the big guns of the Pakistani army.

Working with the American trainers at Warsak, Khan has devised some smart tactics: Private vehicles in the FATA will have electronic chips that register their movements. The scouts will report suspicious activities on their American-made radios, and the snipers will blow away any miscreants using their American-made sniper rifles. To demonstrate that order is returning, the burly Khan, the scion of a princely Pashtun family, took a car trip last summer through the FATA with his wife and daughter.

Khan’s enthusiasm is infectious: “There are no safe havens in my area of responsibility — I can take you anywhere, any place, anytime.” That sidesteps the fact that North and South Waziristan, the main trouble spots, are still the responsibility of the army.

Driving down the roads of the border areas, you sometimes have the sense that you are traveling back in time. But that “back to the future” strategy is a temporary fix, at best. Pakistan, with U.S. support, should be moving forward, not in reverse. The years of war have shattered the old tribal order, and the long-run goal should be to bring the tribal areas into a modern Pakistan, rather than let them fester on their own.

U.S. drone attacks and other firepower can keep the insurgents on the run, but they won’t bring stability. Neither will Tariq Khan’s snipers. Somehow, the people in this desolate region have to feel they have a stake in a future that’s something other than continuous warfare.

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