Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bahukutumbi Raman, "Pak Frontier Corps: To Trust or Not To Trust?" International Terrorism Monitor, Paper No. 400.

Twenty-seven persons----13 of them members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps, including a Major--- are reported to have been killed in an air strike by US Air Force planes on a check post of the FC located near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Gora Parao area in the Mohmand agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan on the night of June 10, 2008.

2. While a Pakistani army spokesman has condemned the US attack as cowardly and unprovoked, Pentagon spokesmen in Washington DC, while not denying the attack, have justified it as a legitimate act of self-defence.

Read the rest of Raman's article here =>

Notes on the Frontier Corps

The Frontier Corps is a Federal paramiltary force comprised mostly of people from the tribal areas with senior command positions filled by officers from the Pakistan Army that has received shipments of protective equipment from the US. In March 29, 2007, the Jamestown Foundation's Hassan Abbas expected a US grant of $75 million per year for the purpose of turning the Frontier Corps into an effective fighting force.

The FC were originally created by the British in 1907 to help with law enforcement and management of the border region, an area of responsibility over 2500 miles long. Today, there are two separate units, one headquartered in Balochistan, the other in the NWFP.

The Balochistan unit consists largely of non-Baloch members. It is viewed locally as an outside force with a reputation for human rights violations and the disproportionate use of force. In the mid-70s the government of Pakistan used this branch of the FC to crush the insurgency in Balochistan. Abbas says the Balochistan unit's reputation is currently at its “lowest point ever” owing to continued highhandedness and “brutal military operations in recent years.”

In contrast, the majority of soldiers in the NWFP unit are ethnically Pashtun and have “a comparatively better reputation among people of the province.”

Abbas describes the Corps as “smartly dressed, hospitable, and courteous.” Unfortunately, he says, “very few of the locals are promoted to higher command positions, which are considered a reserve for officers from the Pakistani Army.”

On September 29 (2007), The Dawn raised the alarm about “the absence of an institutional response” from Musharraf and his government to abductions of soldiers and paramilitaries (a term often used [also militias] to describe Frontier Corps members.)

In the second week of August (2007), 19 Frontier Corps paramilitaries were abducted from South Waziristan. During that operation, the militants released a video entitled Revenge, which featured the brutal beheading of one of the abducted soldiers by a teenage boy.

'The video ran a commentary that questioned the operation against the girls school inside the Red Mosque, the detention of A Q Khan, the Balochistan operation and the forced disappearances of civilians.

On September 1, another 10 FC paramilitaries and an army Major were kidnapped.

Abbas observes that “Pashtuns seldom respond well to messages sent through bullets and shows of force.” Strange, eh? We like to forget they are defending their homes. The Taliban are their neighbors and childhood friends.

Abbas recommends that “the FC NWFP should not be deemed as an alternative to the local political authorities and law enforcement.” But according to B Raman, the police force has long been “neglected and humiliated” by Musharraf and is in a “state of paralysis.” On Sep 27, The Nation notes that there have been 4 suicide attacks—three on law enforcement agencies—in the Swat valley district of the Northwest Frontier Province with a significant reduction in the police patrols as a result.

'Many police posts have been vacated. Many policemen have also deserted the force. The answer to this is definitely not getting the army in. The police, an ill-equipped and ill-paid force, needs to be reformed and corrected. If they had a fraction of the resources the military and paramilitary forces had at their disposal, we would not be having a lot of our current law and order problems.'

On the same day, the Daily Times noted that “Swat and towns lying near it have come under attack from elements of Talibanisation since July, [the Red Mosque incident. The attacks are] spearheaded by trademark suicide bombings that have the police running scared and have, in one instance, targeted an army convoy....The police [have] simply run away and the citizens of the Swat Valley have been asked to fend for themselveas. The citizens have therefore accepted the rule of Fazlullah [an al-Qaeda mullah who led thousands of Pashtun youths into Afghanistan in 2001 and is now in a Pakistani jail and one can expect them to go the way of the people of South Waziristan now being ruled by Al Qaeda proxies.”

Back in December, unnamed Pentagon officials were reported to be saying that aid would take non-lethal forms, including a training center in the region.

Even then, Ahmed Rashid, who was interviewed this week on Democracy Now!, ridiculed the idea that the FC could be an effective force against al-Qaeda or as a control on cross-border traffic by the Taliban.

Former State Department intelligence official Marvin Weinbaum opposed US boots on the ground in the area. "US personnel in the tribal areas would be very exposed," he said, as would any US-associated infrastructure, like a training center. "We are not well liked there." No big surprise.

Evidently the decision was taken to use unmanned aerial vehicles instead. Past experience suggests about a 50-50 "success" rate even for manned air strikes--one innocent civilian for every suspected militant. Hearts and minds come after the endless war strategy turns out to be futile. By then, utter loathing for NATO troops will be likely among the survivors.Recommend this Post

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