Archive for the ‘insurgency’ Category

Culture, Politics Hinder U.S. Effort to Bolster Pakistani Border Forces

March 30, 2008

By Candice Rondeaux and Imtiaz Ali
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 30, 2008; Page A17

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A project to send U.S. military advisers to train Pakistani border forces could begin as early as this summer. But the advisers, according to Western and Pakistani military officials, face serious challenges if they are to transform an ill-equipped paramilitary group into a front-line bulwark against terrorism.
A Pakistani Army soldier in training.

Twenty-two American advisers are being tasked with training a cadre of officers in Pakistan‘s Frontier Corps in counterinsurgency and intelligence-gathering tactics, according to U.S. officials in Pakistan familiar with the plan. The goal is to bolster the force’s operations along the country’s porous 1,500-mile-long border with Afghanistan, an area that has become a hotbed for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as their sympathizers.

But military analysts say that cultural and political fault lines within the Frontier Corps and Pakistan itself could prove the undoing of the U.S. program. The bulk of the force’s rank-and-file troops are ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom are wary of going into battle against a Pashtun-dominated insurgency. Commanders, meanwhile, are regular army officers who often have little in common with their subordinates.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Alam Khattak, the top commander of the Frontier Corps….

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The Latin Crisis

March 24, 2008

By Kay Bailey Hutchison
The Washington Times
March 24, 2008

This month Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez opened the next phase of his dangerous political career by nearly provoking a war with Colombia. In the aftermath of his military threats, the Colombian government learned disturbing information about the relationship between Mr. Chavez and the terrorist group FARC — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chavez called President Bush
“El Diablo” or the devil while addressing
the United Nations….

In light of those revelations, and their implications for U.S. national security, perhaps it is time the Bush administration placed Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
On March 1, the Colombian military retaliated against numerous unprovoked FARC attacks in their territory and struck one of their clandestine camps — in Ecuador, killing one of the organization’s top leaders. FARC, a formerly Soviet-backed insurgency, today makes a living off international kidnapping, drug trafficking and terrorism. It still holds hundreds of hostages for ransom, including American missionaries and a former Colombian presidential candidate. It has been designated as one of the world’s leading terrorist organizations by the State Department.
In the days after the raid, Colombia uncovered e-mails in which FARC operatives reported, after meeting with Mr. Chavez, that significant financial support and even munitions would be forthcoming from the Chavez government. Evidence suggests Venezuela may have provided as much as $300 million to FARC since Mr. Chavez came to power.
If indeed Venezuela has provided money, weapons and other logistical or diplomatic support to FARC, it is guilty of supporting terrorism, a grievous violation of international law. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed the obligation of all states to refrain from assisting terrorists or tolerating their presence inside the country. The United States does not distinguish between terrorists and those who harbor them and support them — and neither should any of our allies.
Venezuela must now be held accountable for its descent into a terrorist haven, and Ecuador should not protest when free countries, like Colombia, step across boundaries to protect innocent lives from plotting terrorists. On March 17, when the Organization of American States held its summit in Washington, it missed an opportunity to take a strong stand against terrorism and instead passed a resolution condemning Colombia’s actions in self-defense.
While imposing additional sanctions on Venezuela could cause adverse short-term economic consequences, Mr. Chavez needs us more than we need him. Venezuelan oil has an extremely high-sulfur content, which requires special refineries to turn it into gasoline. Most of those refineries are in the Southern U.S. along the Gulf Coast. In short, Venezuela would have a very hard time finding other buyers if it loses its most important customer.
And with the increased willingness of Venezuela’s military to stand up to Mr. Chavez — not to mention his sinking popularity among the public — the United States is one customer Mr. Chavez can’t afford to lose.

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War demands strain US military readiness

February 9, 2008

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON – A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the U.S. military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis, The Associated Press has learned.

Despite security gains in Iraq, there is still a “significant” risk that the strained U.S. military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak elsewhere in the world, according to the report.

Last year the Pentagon raised that threat risk from “moderate” to “significant.” This year, the report will maintain that “significant” risk level — pointing to the U.S. military’s ongoing struggle against a stubborn insurgency in Iraq and its lead role in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan Heats to a Boil, Afghanistan a Heated Simmer

February 8, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 8, 2008

As the U.S. continues with the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) to deal with terrorism in Afghanistan, the terrorists seem to have moved their attention and resources east to Pakistan.

U.S. soldiers patrol the Jaji district of the southeastern Paktia ...
U.S. soldiers patrol the Jaji district of the southeastern Paktia province, near the Afghan-Pakistan border, in Afghanistan, January 28, 2008.
REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

“They ( the militants) are now facing the other direction and sending some resources to try and attack, to try and undermine Pakistani stability,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee this week.

And our sources are now saying that the number of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters passing from pakiston westward into Afghanistan has slowed considerably.

The terrorists seem to be going where the U.S. and NATO forces cannot go.  Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly said that U.S. and other coalition forces are not wanted or needed on Pakistani soil.

“Right now, as far as the infiltration, it’s actually been a little bit down lately,” Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez said.

“That’s due to several reasons. One, of course, is the instability and what’s going on in Pakistan and some of the challenges that are going over there, going over in Pakistan.”
El mapa sit 

Violence has soared in Afghanistan over the past two years, with the most attacks occurring in the east and south. NATO has about 15,000 troops, mostly Americans, in Afghanistan’s east.

Just this week several senior U.S. officials have said that additional NATO troops are needed.

Without identifying nations, Gates has said some members of NATO have not done enough to assist in Afghanistan — leaving the U.S. to shoulder the load.

“I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to endure and perhaps even get worse,” said Mr. Gates.

As he has before, Gates insisted he would continue to be “a nag on this issue” when he meets NATO defense ministers Thursday and Friday in Europe to discuss Afghanistan, but also said that only the Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch and Danes “are really out there on the line and fighting.”

“I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples’ security, and others who are not,” Gates said during a Senate hearing on U.S. defense spending plans.

Senator John Warner (R-Virginia) thanked and congratulated Mr. gates and told him to keep after the NATO allies to do more.

Meanwhile the intelligence community in the U.S. sees al Qaeda and the Taliban deeply troubled by pressure from the U.S. and NATO.

“The question becomes, are we reaching a tipping point to witness the decline of this radical behavior?” said Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell at a House Intelligence Committee hearing. “We don’t know but we are watching it very closely.”

“There seems to be a greater indication on the part of people within Islam to question the vision of al-Qaeda and the future that they’re holding out,” CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during a hearing on worldwide threats. He said al-Qaeda’s leaders are “being forced to enter into a frankly open dialogue . . . with the body of believers.”

NATO urged to do more in Afghanistan

February 7, 2008

From combined dispatches
(Peace and freedom thanks AP, Reuters, CNN, ABC)
Senior U.S. officials yesterday turned up the heat on NATO allies to do more in the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, warning that a planned influx of 3,000 Marines is unlikely to halt the deterioration of security there.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in London that Western countries must prepare their citizens for a long fight, while in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said a failure in Afghanistan would put “a cloud over the future” of NATO.
The remarks came amid a drumbeat of discouraging news on several fronts, including a new U.N. report predicting another bumper opium crop that will help to fund the insurgency.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said during a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, that more foreign troops are needed. The threat from the Taliban “is much higher than anticipated in 2001,” he told reporters.
Germany agreed yesterday to boost its force in the country by 200 troops but refused to let them serve in the south where they might face combat. In Canada, which has 2,500 troops fighting in the south, it became clear that an effort to extend the mission could bring down the Conservative-led government.
A British think tank said that country’s relief efforts in Afghanistan were failing, undermining military gains.
Britain’s Department for International Development in embattled Helmand province “is dysfunctional, totally dysfunctional. Basically it should be removed and its budget should go to the army, which might be better able to deliver assistance,” said the president of the Senlis Council, which has long experience in Afghanistan.
The Taliban staged more than 140 suicide missions last year, the most since it was ousted from power in late 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks. “I do think the alliance is facing a real test here,” Miss Rice said at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London. “Our populations need to understand this is not a peacekeeping mission” but rather a long-term fight against extremists, she said. 

Mr. Gates said he was not optimistic that the addition of 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan this spring will be enough to put the NATO-led war effort back on track. He has sent letters to every alliance defense minister asking for more troops and equipment but has not received any replies, he said during a Senate hearing. 

All 26 NATO nations have soldiers in Afghanistan and all agree the mission is their top priority, but only the Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch and Danes “are really out there on the line and fighting,” Mr. Gates said.

He said he would be “a nag on this issue” when he meets NATO defense ministers today and tomorrow in Europe.

But there was little evidence yesterday that the allies are prepared to increase their contributions.

In Berlin, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters Germany will send around 200 combat soldiers to northern Afghanistan this summer to replace a Norwegian unit, but would not move them to the nation’s endangered south. 

“If we neglected the north,” where conditions are relatively peaceful, “we would commit a decisive mistake,” Mr. Jung said. 

In Ottawa, a spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Stephane Dion said Mr. Dion had been told by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a parliamentary vote to extend Canada’s mission would be treated as a matter of confidence, meaning the minority government will fall if it fails. 

Canada has already said it will not extend the mission if other NATO countries do not increase their contributions.

In Tokyo, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime predicted that this year’s production of opium poppies would be close or equal to last year’s record of 477,000 acres. Taliban rebels receive up to $100 million from the drug trade, the agency estimated. 

The Taliban “are deriving an enormous funding for their war by imposing … a 10 percent tax on production,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency.

Mr. Gates told the Senate hearing that he worries “a great deal” about NATO evolving into “a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples’ security, and others who are not.”

Overall, there are about 43,000 troops in the NATO-led coalition, including 16,000 U.S. troops. An additional 13,000 U.S. troops are outside NATO command, training Afghan forces and hunting al Qaeda terrorists.

SecDef Gates, Admiral Mullen Testify Before SASC

Southern Thailand: The Problem with Paramilitaries

October 23, 2007

International Crisis Group
Asia Report N°140
23 October 2007

Thailand’s increasing reliance on paramilitary forces and civilian militias is hindering efforts to tackle the insurgency in its majority Muslim southern provinces. A bewildering array of paramilitary organisations works alongside and often in parallel to the regular military and police. There are advantages to using irregular forces. They are quicker and cheaper to train and deploy and tend to have more flexible command structures. Locally recruited volunteers have better local knowledge than troops brought in from outside. But they are also inadequately trained and equipped, confuse already difficult command and control arrangements and appear in some cases to make communal tensions worse. While paramilitaries are likely to continue to be deployed in the South, the government should move toward consolidating security arrangements and, in the longer term, concentrate on improving its regular security forces.

Paramilitary organisations and village militias have played significant roles in policing and counter-insurgency throughout Thai history, particularly against communist and separatist guerrillas during the 1970s and 1980s. Over the last decade, these forces have taken on new roles, from controlling refugee camps on the border with Myanmar/ Burma to prosecuting the “war on drugs” in 2003. But the most significant expansion has been for the suppression of separatist violence in the South.

The army has tripled the strength of the paramilitary “ranger” force (Thahan Phran) in the South since violence surged in 2004, despite its well-deserved reputation for brutality and corruption. It has made some reforms, particularly in screening recruits, since the 1980s and on the whole is a more professional force than twenty years ago, but serious problems with discipline and human rights abuses remain.

The military’s key rationale for recruiting new ranger units in the South was to create a local force familiar with the terrain, language and culture. In practice, however, no more than 30 per cent of new recruits are local Malay Muslims. The overwhelming majority of southern Muslims continue to fear and mistrust the rangers. Several suspected extrajudicial killings in 2007 have confirmed their suspicions and played into the hands of militant propagandists. Insurgents are also believed to have carried out attacks dressed in ranger uniforms, in order to whip up anti-state sentiment.

The interior ministry has its own paramilitary force, the Or Sor (Volunteer Defence Corps). Known to be fiercely loyal to its ministry bosses, though less problematic than the rangers, it is widely viewed as the armed enforcer of the ministry’s district officers.

The largest armed force in the South – after a massive expansion in 2004-2005 – is a civilian militia, the Village Defence Volunteers (Chor Ror Bor). Though senior government and military officials have questioned their effectiveness, the Chor Ror Bor still constitute the main form of security in most villages. Poorly trained, isolated and vulnerable, they are often unable to protect themselves and their weapons, let alone their communities. Militants have stolen the guns of hundreds since 2004. Some Chor Ror Bor have also turned their guns on fellow villagers when local security incidents have gone beyond control. Yet a plan was announced in July 2007 to recruit an additional 7,000 by the end of 2009.

Despite the evident problems with existing village militias, the Royal Aide-de-Camp department, under Queen Sirikit’s direction, established a parallel volunteer scheme, the Village Protection Force (Or Ror Bor) in September 2004. Its volunteers receive ten- to fifteen-days military training, an improvement on the Chor Ror Bor’s three days, but hardly adequate for confrontations with well-armed and organised militants. Unlike the Chor Ror Bor militia, whose make-up broadly reflects the demographic balance of the region, the Or Ror Bor is almost exclusively Buddhist, often stationed in temple compounds and tasked with protecting Buddhist communities.

The Buddhist minority in the South feels increasingly threatened. Muslim militants have attempted to drive Buddhists from several areas. Officials, civilians and even monks have been targeted in gruesome killings apparently designed to provoke retaliation. Many Buddhists, frustrated with the government’s failure to provide adequate protection, are taking matters into their own hands. Private militias are being established throughout the South, with varying degrees of official sanction and support.

The proliferation of poorly trained, loosely supervised militias in a volatile conflict in which civilians are the main victims confuses command and control arrangements, weakens accountability and heightens the risk of wider communal violence. However, the inability of the regular army to cope with the security threat posed by the Muslim separatist militants suggests that Thailand will continue to use paramilitaries for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, the government should:

  • review the effectiveness of each paramilitary and militia force as the first step toward consolidating security arrangements;

  • provide additional military and humanitarian law training and supervision to the Thahan Phran “rangers”, to improve discipline and curb abuses;

  • work to phase out, disarm and disband the various village militias, whose impact on security is negligible;

  • tighten controls on guns and gun licenses;

  • prevent the operation of private sectarian militias, whose emergence is an extremely worrying trend, and bring their sponsors within the government and security forces into line; and

  • shift emphasis over time and concentrate on improving the professionalism and strength of its regular military and police rather than arming untrained and jumpy civilians.