Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's Pakistan's World, We Just Pay to Live in it

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps (FC) has a unique capability set as it consists of men from the FATA and is led by officers from the Pakistani Army. There are two main headquarters for this 80,000 man unit, one in the Northwest Frontier Province and the other in Balochistan Province. They are tasked with helping local law enforcement in the maintenance of law and order as well as conducting border patrol and anti-smuggling operations.

The US negotiated a deal with Pakistani leadership to equip and train this force for use in border operations but the deal has been plagued from the start due to ISI influence towards carrying out separate agendas. In 2008, the US sent SOF trainers to shape the FC into an effective counterinsurgency force. The FC’s loyalty has been in question for some time, but the fact that it is one of the very few units capable of operating in the FATA where much of the Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters live, makes them one of America’s better options for influencing actions from the ground.

Until recently that is. The killing of two Pakistanis in Islamabad by a CIA contractor has led Pakistan to flex its’ ever increasing leverage over US efforts. Gen. Kayani, the Pakistan Military Chief, has now requested (in a demanding fashion) the removal of 40% of US special operators from the country and all CIA contractors. This would include the trainers currently stationed Warshak, where the main FC training compound is located. As if this demand wouldn’t hurt the FATA campaign enough on its own, Pakistan has also demanded that the Obama Administration get the drone campaign under control and scale it back. Kayani was furious a month ago when tribal leaders were killed as a drone strike targeting Taliban leaders was launched and the latest CIA event seemed to be the tipping point.

What is clear from this is the steady reduction of options the US has now in regards to taking the fight into Pakistan. Pakistan is able to protect the Taliban when it wants to and has shown its willingness to stand up to the US without fear of retaliation. Time will tell if US drone strikes decrease, but with fewer US and allied troops on the ground, civilian casualties are more likely to rise. Pakistan has bluntly stated that the CIA must trust the ISI to act on America’s behalf in Pakistan and it now seems we have fewer alternatives but to do so. It will be interesting to see what the Pakistan response is when US drone strikes based on ISI intelligence leads to civilian casualties.

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