USA/Pakistan — U.S. Must Help Pakistan Beat Insurgency, Officials Say

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2010 — Call­ing rela­tions with Pak­istan vital to U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty, senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cials tes­ti­fied on Capi­tol Hill today in sup­port of long-term fund­ing for Pakistan’s coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions.

Michele Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John M. Pax­ton Jr., direc­tor of oper­a­tions for the Joint Staff, said con­tin­ued fund­ing of both mil­i­tary and civil­ian oper­a­tions in Pak­istan is crit­i­cal to sus­tain the coalition’s coun­terin­sur­gency gains in Afghanistan.

“This is a part­ner­ship that is absolute­ly vital to U.S. inter­ests, but it’s also com­plex,” Flournoy told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has been con­sis­tent in its goal of dis­man­tling al-Qai­da and oth­er vio­lent extrem­ists in the region, Flournoy said, and Pak­istan is a key U.S. ally in ways that extend beyond ter­ror­ism.

U.S. oper­a­tions in Afghanistan “are bear­ing fruit” in reduc­ing vio­lent extrem­ism, and Pak­istan is increas­ing­ly help­ful in the effort, Flournoy said. Pak­istani secu­ri­ty forces have made sig­nif­i­cant gains since fight­ing ter­ror­ists in the Swat Val­ley in March 2009, per­se­ver­ing in the face of more than 4,000 casu­al­ties, she said.

Since then, ter­ror­ist attacks in Pak­istani cities have caused more Pak­istani cit­i­zens to sup­port coun­terin­sur­gency efforts, Flournoy said. “It gal­va­nized the pop­u­la­tion to see this as more than just a U.S. fight,” she told the com­mit­tee, “but one in which they have a vital inter­est.”

U.S. sup­port for Pak­istan extends beyond secu­ri­ty to mat­ters such as ener­gy and water, Flournoy said.

“Their assess­ment of our stay­ing pow­er is chang­ing,” she added. “We’ve been extreme­ly respon­sive to their needs in fund­ing and oth­er sup­port. I think they are start­ing to believe that we are com­mit­ted to the greater secu­ri­ty of the region and that extends their will­ing­ness to work with us.”

Despite the gains, Pak­istani offi­cials recent­ly not­ed a “trick­ling in” of Tal­iban to pre­vi­ous­ly cleared areas, Pax­ton said. The only way to pre­vent insur­gents from regain­ing strength in such areas is to sup­port the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment with mil­i­tary sup­port and civil­ian projects, he said, adding that the Pak­istani peo­ple must see gov­ern­ment con­trol as endur­ing.

Fund­ing for Pakistan’s coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign has allowed the U.S. mil­i­tary to sup­ply heli­copters and oth­er equip­ment to the Pak­ista­nis, train their secu­ri­ty forces and enhance coor­di­na­tion and intel­li­gence shar­ing between Pak­istan and coali­tion forces, Flournoy said.

How­ev­er, Pak­istan remains “fraught with chal­lenges,” Flournoy said. Three of Pakistan’s cur­rent chal­lenges, she said, include:

— Its abil­i­ty to hold and build areas that have been cleared of insur­gents.

— Its long­stand­ing per­cep­tion that India, rather than ter­ror­ists, is its biggest threat.

— Its lega­cy of mis­trust toward the Unit­ed States.

“It is imper­a­tive that we sup­port Pak­istan,” Pax­ton said. “Their fight is direct­ly aligned with our goals in the region. We must remain stead­fast in devel­op­ing their abil­i­ties.”

Vio­lent extrem­ist net­works in the region threat­en not only Pak­istan, but “the entire globe, includ­ing the U.S. home­land,” he said.

The Defense Depart­ment shift­ed con­trol of fund­ing for Pakistan’s coun­terin­sur­gency effort to the State Depart­ment, begin­ning with a $1.2 bil­lion request in the fis­cal 2011 bud­get, State and Defense offi­cials said. State will trans­fer $10 mil­lion of the fund for the U.S. mil­i­tary to hold cleared areas and respond to acute human­i­tar­i­an needs in those areas, they said.

As part of U.S.-Pakistan mil­i­tary rela­tions, Flournoy said, it is “absolute­ly crit­i­cal” for the U.S. mil­i­tary to resume its train­ing-assis­tance pro­gram for Pak­istani mil­i­tary offi­cers. A con­gres­sion­al­ly imposed stop­page of that pro­gram in the 1990s result­ed in Pakistan’s cur­rent mid-lev­el offi­cers hav­ing lit­tle under­stand­ing of the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“We did lose a gen­er­a­tion, and we now are scram­bling to find oth­er ways to engage them and build that trust,” she said. “We will spend a long time recov­er­ing from that.”

Also, Flournoy said, U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cials are work­ing hard to pro­vide the Pak­istani mil­i­tary with heli­copters and relat­ed main­te­nance and train­ing pro­grams. To expe­dite their capa­bil­i­ties, the Unit­ed States refur­bished the Pak­istani military’s Russ­ian-made Mi-17 heli­copters and also has pro­vid­ed some U.S.-made Bell 412s.

Flournoy explained why the Unit­ed States would refur­bish Pakistan’s old­er, Russ­ian-made heli­copters. “They have them today, and they know how to fly them,” she said. “In mat­ter of weeks, we can have them in the air and return them to flight.” Offi­cials are dis­cussing a long-term plan for new Pak­istani heli­copters, she said.

As the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues its involve­ment in the region, Pax­ton said, a “whole of gov­ern­ment” approach is impor­tant.

“Don’t lose sight of oth­er side of the bor­der,” he said. “Just as we have built an endur­ing rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan, we need to do that with Afghanistan and make sure they build rela­tions with each oth­er.”

Flournoy said there is a clear under­stand­ing with­in the admin­is­tra­tion “of where we need to go” with Pak­istan, and it includes about a 50–50 match of mil­i­tary and civil­ian sup­port.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)