US plans for the $1 billion upgrade of their Islamabad embassy are taking shape. The plans include investments of about $405 million in reconstruction of the main embassy building and $111 million for a housing complex for additional personnel. The US has already purchased 18 acres of land from the Pakistan government for additional accommodation for diplomatic personnel.
This plan to increase US presence in Pakistan was first announced in May 2009, to complement Obama’s Af-Pak strategy. The plan also calls for a significant increase in the number of personnel (by about 1,000), and includes the deployment of 350 marines and several armored personnel carriers.
The slow but steady increase in US boots-on-the-ground provides the Americans the ability to carry out COIN and covert operations in NWFP, FATA and Baluchistan with or without direct assistance from the Pakistani army and the ISI. Clearly, the frustration of being encumbered by a double-talking “ally ” has translated into the US adopting a more operational role in the border regions of Pakistan and beyond. Indeed, there are reports of significant US muscle power already present in the Tarbela area (about 20 miles NW of Islamabad), in addition to CIA “facilities” in Karachi and Peshawar, and Predator drones operating out of Shamsi airbase.
While there may be question marks over the exact role of US marines in Pakistan, they are clearly there as a result of Pakistani government assent — whether provided voluntary or under compulsion. Boots-on-the-ground provides the US the flexibility to operate with enough independence to pick and choose targets for engagement, while leaving some of the “dirty work” to the Pakistani army.
It also ties in with the overall strategy of negotiating with the so-called “moderate” Taliban, while targeting those Talibani elements not willing to be bought over. In this regard, the return of Robin Raphel to the neighborhood may not be coincidental. Who better to deal with the Taliban than their most vocal cheerleader? (via The Acorn)
As expected, this hasn’t gone down well with the Pakistani media. Never one to pass up an opportunity to fume over all things India or US related, Shireen Mazari takes her government to task for kowtowing America’s line. She argues:
It now transpires that there are already 300 plus US military personnel in this area – the so-called “trainers”. Of course, given the poor counter insurgency record of the US, heaven knows what training they will impart to our much better trained army!
Of course, one could point out that for all the bravado and chest-thumping, the Pakistani army has nothing to show for its COIN efforts in Swat, that the Swati leadership is still intact, and that as was last known, the Radio Mullah had resumed his FM-based sermons, but the concepts of “fact” and “logic” are largely irrelevant in Mazari’s writing.
Meanwhile, the August 3 editorial of The Dawn disapproves of the increasing US presence and asks whether such a move would “endear” the US to Pakistani civilians. The editorial sees the development as being part of US’s contingency plans of taking control of Pakistan’s nukes, in the event of a meltdown of the state. It points out that the Americans operated a similar base out of Tehran during the Shah’s rule, and asks, with tongue-in-cheek, whether such a base wouldn’t be more suitable if it were to operate out of capitals in the region that were friendly to Washington, such as Kabul or New Delhi.