US to expand military presence in Pakistan


Richard Moore

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US to expand military presence in Pakistan


EARLY next year, US special forces are expected to vastly expand their presence 
in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous 
counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counter-terrorism units, according to 
American defence officials involved with the planning, reports Washington Post.

These Pakistan-centric operations will mark a shift for the US military and for 
US-Pakistan relations. In the aftermath of Sept 11, the US used Pakistani bases 
to stage movements into Afghanistan. Yet once the US deposed the Taliban 
government and established its main operating base at Bagram, north of Kabul, US
forces left Pakistan almost entirely. Since then, Pakistan has restricted US 
involvement in cross-border military operations as well as paramilitary 
operations on its soil.

But the Pentagon has been frustrated by the inability of Pakistani forces to 
control the borders or the frontier area. And Pakistan¹s political instability 
has heightened US concern about extremists there.

According to Pentagon sources, reaching a different agreement with Pakistan 
became a priority for the new head of the US Special Operations Command, Adm 
Eric T Olson.

Olson visited Pakistan in August, November and again this month, meeting with 
President Pervez Musharraf, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Tariq 
Majid and Lt Gen Muhammad Masood Aslam, commander of the military and 
paramilitary troops in northwest Pakistan. Olson also visited the headquarters 
of the Frontier Corps, a separate paramilitary force recruited from Pakistan¹s 
border tribes.

Now, a new agreement, reported when it was still being negotiated last month, 
has been finalised. And the first US personnel could be on the ground in 
Pakistan by early in the new year, according to Pentagon sources.

US Central Command Commander Adm William Fallon alluded to the agreement and 
spoke approvingly of Pakistan¹s recent counter-terrorism efforts in a recent 

³What we¹ve seen in the last several months is more of a willingness to use 
their regular army units,² along the Afghan border, Fallon said. ³And this is 
where, I think, we can help a lot from the US in providing the kind of training,
assistance and mentoring based on our experience with insurgencies recently and 
with the terrorist problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think we share a lot with 
them, and we¹ll look forward to doing that.²

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