U.S. Plan Widens Role in Training Pakistani Forces: NYT

U.S. Plan Widens Role in Training Pakistani Forces
By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER, New York Times, March 2, 2008

WASHINGTON — The United States military is developing a plan to send about 100 American trainers to work with a Pakistani paramilitary force that is the vanguard in the fight against Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas, American military officials said.

Pakistan has ruled out allowing American combat troops to fight Qaeda and Taliban militants in the tribal areas. But Pakistani leaders have privately indicated that they would welcome additional American trainers to help teach new skills to Pakistani soldiers whose army was tailored not for counterinsurgency but to fight a conventional land war against India.

Even though the training program would unfold over several months, it is being disclosed at a time of heightened operations in the unruly tribal areas along the Afghan border. At least eight people suspected of being Islamic militants were killed Thursday in a triple missile attack on a house used for training in the tribal areas.

For several years, small teams of American Special Operations forces have trained their Pakistani counterparts in counterinsurgency tactics. But the 40-page classified plan now under review at the United States Central Command to help train the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from ethnic groups on the border, would significantly increase the size and scope of the American training role in the country.

United States trainers initially would be restricted to training compounds, but with Pakistani consent could eventually accompany Pakistani troops on missions “to the point of contact” with militants, as American trainers now do with Iraqi troops in Iraq, a senior American military official said. Britain is also considering a similar training mission in Pakistan, officials said. A spokesman at the British Embassy here declined to comment.

“The U.S. is bringing in a small number of trainers to assist Pakistan in their efforts to improve training of the Frontier Corps,” Elizabeth O. Colton, a spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Islamabad, said in an e-mail message. “The U.S. trainers will be primarily focused on assisting the Pakistan cadre who will do the actual training of the Frontier Corps troops.”

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