The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

U.S. hopes to arm Pakistani tribes against Al Qaeda

U.S. hopes to arm Pakistani tribes against Al Qaeda:

WASHINGTON: A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.

If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said, a force that could grow by dozens under the new approach.

The proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar Province in Iraq that has been hailed as a great success in fighting foreign insurgents there. But it raises the question of whether such partnerships can be forged without a significant American military presence in Pakistan. And it is unclear whether enough support can be found among the tribes.
Can't really comment about this stuff with any expertise whatsoever, but I would worry about long-term consequences of empowering local tribal chiefs. They've proved again and again to be fair-weather friends. But perhaps rewarding those that collaborate with what these areas have always needed -- infrastructure and investment -- and waving around a very big stick would work.