The U.S. Defense Department says a series of ideas for a new effort to try to get Pakistani tribal leaders to cooperate in the fight against terrorists is just a staff document and is far from any senior level consideration. The document was quoted in Monday's New York Times. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says the idea of trying to engage Pakistani tribal leaders came from a visit to Pakistan by the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, Admiral Eric Olson. Admiral Olson is the lead defense official in the effort to increase international cooperation in the global war on terror, and to enhance the capabilities of partner nations.
"Admiral Olson went there," he said. "He met with the Pakistanis. And they were both desirous of figuring out ways in which there could be greater cooperation. That's it."
Morrell says the Admiral's staff at Special Operations Command developed some proposals, and the New York Times says those ideas are now being circulated among experts outside the Defense Department. But Morrell says the ideas have not been endorsed by Admiral Olson or anyone else.
"All this stuff that's written about, has not gone up even back to him, let alone to this building [the Pentagon]," he said.
At the same time, however, Morrell confirms a Pentagon effort to expand Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a locally recruited force along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Morrell says that effort began earlier this year with an appropriation of $52 million, and the Pentagon wants to expand it next year to $97 million. He says the program provides training and equipment, but not weapons or ammunition, to the Frontier Corps, and also support for efforts to expand its ranks.
The new U.S. focus on local forces in Pakistan comes after successful efforts in western Iraq to enlist the help of local tribal leaders in the fight against al-Qaida. Related al-Qaida elements operate in the difficult-to-govern areas of western Pakistan, along the Afghanistan border. As in Iraq, the terrorists have operated with the cooperation and protection of local tribes, and as in Iraq, the United States would like to see Pakistani tribal leaders turn against the terrorists.