Wednesday, April 2, 2008

US Aid: Long on promise. Short on delivery

US support long on promise short on equipment. Frontier corps needs 80,000 M16s and MASH hospitals

The American support for the Pakistani forces has largely been theoretical. America has not supplied the Frontier corps with any weapons and has not helped them establish medical evacuation teams, helicopters, drones, night vision binoculars, all terrain vehicles, helmets. How can they expect the Fronter Corp to fight when the roads leading to the areas are not paved. The US needs to pave the roads, build new airports, and hospitals in the region so that the Frontier Corps is a functional body.

Culture, politics hinder US effort to bolster FC

Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Cultural and political fault lines within the Frontier Corps (FC) and Pakistan itself could undo the United States’ plan to train and equip the 80,000-strong force, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper quoted US officials as saying that 21 American advisers had been tasked with training a cadre of FC officers in counterinsurgency and intelligence-gathering tactics “as early as this summer”.
It said the bulk of the force’s rank-and-file troops were ethnic Pashtuns, with many wary of going into battle against a Pashtun-dominated insurgent force. Commanders, meanwhile, were regular army officers who often had little in common with their subordinates, the Post added.
Major General Muhammad Alam Khattak, the FC’s top commander, expressed frustration with a “slow-moving military bureaucracy that has left his troops to fight an insurgency with World War II-era rifles”. “It’s very difficult, but our force is an old force ... We are on a global geopolitical fault line,” Khattak told the Post.
The newspaper said that FC units, which were poorly equipped and lacked support from the army, had suffered devastating defeats by the Taliban over the past six years. About 300 troops have been killed since 2001, it said.
Low salaries and inconsistent medical evacuation services for wounded troops have also dimmed morale, Khattak said. “Many of our casualties were not warranted. If we had been better equipped, we would not have seen so many casualties,” he added.
“When you have a position that is only manned by five or six [FC] men and it’s confronted by a contingent of dozens of Taliban militants, there’s not a lot of incentive to stay and fight,” a Western military official said, adding, “As far as some of these FC guys go, they think: What’s the point in resisting these guys? If I don’t fight, I live to see another day.”
“These guys are Pashtuns, so they know the local areas. But there are problems. There’s been this kind of historical stepchild relationship with the army,” said a Western diplomat.
“They’ve got different levels of equipment, different levels of medevac services than the army. One of the concerns we’ve heard about is: What happens if we get killed? What happens to our families?”
Sadiq Ali, a former member of the corps, told the Post that he had joined the FC to help his family financially. But the meagre wages were hardly enough to persuade him to stay.
“No parents would risk their children’s lives just for a few thousand rupees a month,” Ali said.
According to the Post, FC soldiers earn an average of $60 to $70 a month – a little more than half what their counterparts in the regular Pakistani army make, and a third less than what Afghan army troops get.
“I didn’t know why we were fighting this war ... It was all about following the orders of my senior officers, and that’s it,” said Zeeshan, a 21-year-old FC deserter, who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals.

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