By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Gen. David H. Petraeus warned yesterday that al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Pakistan are posing "an ever more serious threat to Pakistan's very existence," and he said that Pakistan's leaders must act to counter the challenge with a well-trained military counterinsurgency force.
Petraeus requested congressional support for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, a new, more-flexible spending stream that would permit more rapid and targeted U.S. training and provide more equipment to Pakistani forces that combat insurgents inside the country's lawless tribal regions.
"The Pakistani military has stepped up operations in parts of the tribal areas. Everyone recognizes, however, that much further work is required, and the events of recent days underscore that point," Petraeus testified before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee.
Specifically, Petraeus said, Pakistan must reconfigure its military forces to deal with counterinsurgency operations rather than to continue its conventional focus on traditional rival India.
The fund Petraeus seeks, with a budget of $400 million for the rest of fiscal 2009, would be channeled directly through U.S. Central Command, which he oversees. This arrangement would give Central Command greater control over how the money is spent, and the military could withhold equipment from Pakistani forces until they complete required training, according to an outline of the program.
The fund would be similar to those used to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and police, Petraeus said, and would be tailored to Pakistani forces engaged in counterinsurgency.
Such U.S. military training is underway for small numbers of Pakistani forces that operate in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North-West Frontier Province, he said. About 300 to 350 Frontier Corps forces moved into the district of Buner after the Taliban expanded into the area from the Swat Valley.
The Taliban "supposedly have now withdrawn with the arrival of the Frontier Corps forces" in Buner, Petraeus said. "So this capability will help us enormously."
Congress is likely to support the new fund for the Pakistani military at least in the current supplemental spending bill that covers military contingencies for 2009. However, there may be a debate over the program for 2010, with some lawmakers seeking to channel the counterinsurgency funds through the State Department rather than the U.S. military, according to congressional staff members.