Realigning Pakistan's Security Forces
Author: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer
Council on Foreign Relations, June 18, 2009
Growing militancy inside Pakistan has spotlighted the inability of the country's security forces to fight domestic insurgency. Militants have been expanding their reach: Large swaths of territory in northwestern Pakistan are out of government control; extremist groups across the country are working together; and suicide bombings frequently rock major cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. In May, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described the fight against terrorism (AP) as a "war of the country's survival." The United States sees Pakistani cooperation to defeating its militants as crucial to winning the war in neighboring Afghanistan. The Obama administration, through its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, is now focused on strengthening Pakistan's counterinsurgency capabilities, and it is pushing for increased assistance for equipment and training for Pakistani forces. But some analysts say Pakistani authorities, especially in the military, don't see the need to convert to a counterinsurgency force and continue to view India as the country's primary threat. Questions of continuing links between some militant groups and Pakistan's security forces--the army, the Frontier Corps, and the military intelligence agency known as the ISI--remain.
Plans for Reform
There has been some movement by the Pakistani government to tackle the growing insurgency. Early in 2009, it announced the creation of a national counterterrorism authority tasked with developing a counterterrorism strategy and acting as the focal point for coordinating counterterrorism efforts. A special force of eighty thousand troops will be recruited for the authority with funding from Pakistan's allies. But Hassan Abbas, research fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center, says the "real question is whether the requisite funds will be available soon and if this institution will be genuinely empowered by all the major pillars of the state to take up the gigantic task."
Thus far, Pakistan's military strategy to deal with the insurgency has involved peace deals with militants interspersed with military offensives that employ heavy force to clear militant-held areas. This has displaced over three million people in the northwest; the International Crisis Group warns that failure to address this humanitarian crisis could "reverse any gains on the battlefield and boost radical Islamist groups."
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