Pakistan does some US dirty work
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI – Pakistan’s seven-year association with the United States’ “war on terror” has moved to a new and dangerous level: the US has given it a contract to build 1,000 Humvees for use by troops in Afghanistan against the Taliban-led insurgency.
The fact that Pakistan is now providing the hardware for the “war on terror” is a highly sensitive issue, given the already inflammatory situation that exists in the country over Islamabad siding with Washington in this fight against terrorism.
Asia Times Online has learned that Pakistan’s Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) has been given the order for an undisclosed sum for the Humvees – high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles. HIT, located 35 kilometers to the west of the capital Islamabad, is leading engineering and manufacturing center for the armed forces in Pakistan, with a workforce of over 6,000.
Work on the Humvees has already begun, although the task is being undertaken in secret. HIT has the capabilities to build main battle tanks, armored recovery vehicles, armored personnel carriers and other military equipment. Humvees are currently produced by AM General, an American heavy vehicle manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana.
According to contacts at the plant who spoke to ATol, the Humvees are just the first of many orders to come for the manufacture of armaments for use in Afghanistan.
ATol contacted the Ministry of Defense Production, under which HIT operates, and was directed by a Major Raza Hasan to the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Athar Abbas, as the minister was not available. Abbas said he had no knowledge of the matter of the Humvees and would call back after speaking with HIT. At time of publication, he had not done so.
A widening war
The winter season has begun, but the heat of fighting is not getting any cooler in the South Asian war theater, indeed, it is becoming cauldron-hot.
The Taliban have shown unprecedented resilience and the scope of the battlefield has broadened from the border provinces with Pakistan to the main urban centers of Afghanistan. Whether it is newly formed American bases in Nuristan and Khost provinces, or the British base in Lashkar Gah, they have either been overrun or placed under constant siege by the Taliban.
Now, the strategic backyard of the “war on terror”, Pakistan, is feeling the heat. Just as Kabul is under siege by the Taliban and communication links leading to Kabul have been disrupted by the Taliban, Islamabad is under siege by the Taliban and militants in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
Increasingly frequent raids by US special forces into Pakistan from Afghanistan and the use of Predator drones to target militants has angered many in Pakistan, and even caused dissent within the ranks of the armed forces.
That Pakistan is now producing hardware that could conceivably be used inside Pakistan against its people will rankle even more.
Further, as reported by ATol, the US is establishing a large base inside Pakistan at Tarbella, 20 km from Islamabad, officially said to be used to train Pakistani troops and to take part in operations in the tribal areas. (See Pakistan, US await militant showdown Asia Times Online, October 7, 2008.)
However, it is suspected the base will be used for US operations inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. American trainers are working out an arrangement for joint ventures with a selective group of Pakistani Frontier Corps.
The US already plans a military surge in Afghanistan with an additional brigade (4,000 to 5,000 troops) in January and possibly two or three more brigades later in the year. These will be reinforcements, not replacements. This will further “Americanize” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in Afghanistan. Already, 26,000 of the 63,000 total international forces in the country are American. At the same time, the Afghan National Army is being expanded to 122,000 personnel and a rudimentary air force is being created.
It is against this backdrop that the US has turned to Pakistan for the manufacture of armaments to supply these new demands both within Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at •••@••.•••
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