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The U.S. Special Forces Training Mission In Pakistan Expands

About two weeks ago I was talking to an Obama administration official about the prospects for Pakistan accepting a larger contingent of U.S. counterinsurgency trainers. The administration was pressing somewhat gingerly, the official indicated, not wanting to push the Pakistani military too far — it would be counterproductive to imply too strongly that the Pakistanis need the United States’ help — but letting it be known that additional trainers, beyond the 70 Special Forces troops in-theater, are available if they’re needed. It didn’t look so promising, though, and so senior officials publicly emphasized the material aid — night-vision goggles, helicopters — that they were going to offer the Pakistanis rather than any additional U.S. military trainers to instruct them in best practices.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who’s practically commuting to Islamabad, mentioned during Senate testimony yesterday that he recently observed “some fairly effective counterinsurgency training” that his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has put into place. That seemed to suggest Pakistan was going to take a distinctly Pakistani take on COIN.

Maybe not. Yochi Dreazen and Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal break the story that a small additional contingent of Special Forces are going to Pakistan:

The Special Forces personnel are being deployed to new training camps in Quetta and Baluchistan, Taliban strongholds that lie close to the porous Afghan-Pakistani border, the officials said. The moves bring U.S. personnel deeper into Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions than before.

Senior U.S. officials familiar with the plan said the 25 to 50 Special Forces personnel will focus on training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who cross freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Watch to see if the distinction between “training” and “fighting” remains a hard and fast one. Administration officials have consistently maintained that it’s better to have an imperfect but counterinsurgency-capable Pakistani military than an expanded U.S. mission. But, as they say, things happen in the street.

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