Defense Bill Aids Pakistani Paramilitary Group

A soldier from Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps searches a motorist. The corps is being trained to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in border areas.
A soldier from Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps searches a motorist. The corps is being trained to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban in border areas. (By John Moore -- Getty Images)
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By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 4, 2008

Congress buried some interesting provisions on Pakistan and, separately, U.S. Army recruitment in the 1,513-page fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill that President Bush signed Jan. 28. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates was given authority, "with the concurrence of the Secretary of State," to provide as much as $75 million worth of equipment, supplies and training to "build the capacity" of the Pakistan Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force that is recruited from border tribes and trained at camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pentagon officials have publicly described the Frontier Corps as having more credibility with local tribesmen because the troops come from the region, while most Pakistani army regulars do not.

One purpose for the new money may be to increase the presence of U.S. Special Forces on Pakistani soil in support of the Frontier Corps. Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of Special Operations Command, visited Pakistan last fall and included a stop at the Frontier Corps headquarters.

Congress added two unusual clauses in the authorization. It said the assistance will be provided "in a manner that promotes observance of and respect for human rights" and "respect for legitimate civilian authority within Pakistan." In the past, that type of language has been associated with training by U.S. personnel that also could involve them taking part in counterterrorist or counterinsurgency missions. That is what happened to Special Forces in Vietnam in the 1960s and in Central America in the 1980s.

Little more than three years ago, the provision of 68 spotting scopes, 74 hand-held Global Positioning System devices, 200 bulletproof vests, 345 vehicles and less than $1 million in other equipment to the 60,000-member Pakistan Frontier Corps justified a U.S. Embassy announcement.

Congress wants to keep track of the new money as well as what is happening along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Pentagon must send a budget to six House and Senate committees before spending the Pakistan Frontier Corps funds.

Congress also required a Pentagon report by March 31 that details Pakistani government efforts to eliminate terrorist havens and block cross-border movement of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It must include an assessment of whether the Islamabad government is "making a substantial and sustained effort" to achieve these objectives.

The language contains a provision that says if the March 31 deadline is not met, the United States cannot make payments to Pakistan for its military expenditures until the report is delivered to Capitol Hill.

In a separate and somewhat unusual provision related to continued U.S. Army efforts to boost enlistments, Congress has authorized the Army secretary to offer a bonus of as much as $2,000 to any Army regular, Reservist, National Guard member or retiree who refers someone who joins the service. Because of the length of the war in Iraq, the Army has been hard-pressed to keep up the size of its ranks and has employed other kinds of bonuses.

To earn the money, recipients must provide a name to Army recruiters of someone who has not previously served in the military. If that person enlists in the Army, the Reserve or the National Guard and begins basic training, the person who gave the referral receives up to $1,000. If the enlistee completes both basic training and advanced training, it is worth another $1,000.

This provision replaces one in the fiscal 2006 legislation that provided only one lump-sum payment of $1,000 when the person referred completed basic and advanced training.

The person making the referral cannot give the name of an immediate family member, nor can the referrer be an Army or civilian employee whose job is recruiting. Another group barred from the program is anyone, either in the active or retired Army, who works on the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program in high schools. The new program will end Dec. 31, 2008.

By the way, there is a provision in U.S. law that makes it a crime if a bounty is paid "to induce any person to enlist in an armed force." Not to worry. The bill signed by the president last week says specifically that "the referral bonus authorized by this section is not a bounty."

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