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DOD, State To Launch New Counterterrorism Work In Asia And Africa Print

rummyInside The Pentagon - August 3, 2006

The Pentagon is poised to shift as much as $100 million to the State Department for an effort to hire private contractors charged with enhancing the counterterrorism capabilities of foreign militaries in 14 nations across Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to a senior Defense Department official.

The program, which involves an unorthodox sharing of resources, won the approval of Congress last year only after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a big push for it. It is designed to fulfill a key objective of the U.S. strategy for the global war on terrorism -- bolstering the capabilities of partner nations to fight terrorists within and around their borders.

Eight aid packages, each worth $10 million to $30 million, have been constructed to boost the maritime and land-based counterterrorism operations of military forces in Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Senegal, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Some of the aid packages fund efforts in more than one nation; additional aid packages for other nations may be approved soon.

This program is designed to give them the training and equipment so that they can take on common enemies and prevent terrorist sanctuaries in their territories that are a problem for them and for us, Jeb Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, said in an interview. This is [a Bush] administration program to get ahead of problems before they get full-blown.

The security assistance packages are the product of programs nominated and coordinated by geographic combatant commanders and top diplomats at U.S. embassies. In general, the packages consist of relatively low-tech equipment -- no major weapon systems are in the offing -- designed to provide each nation with a better picture of activities within its borders and on the seas near its shores.

Over time we want to reduce safe havens and ungoverned spaces that become safe havens -- be it land or sea -- around the world, said Nadaner. We want to help countries that want to help themselves.

The long-term goal, he said, is to create a layered series of capabilities around the world among U.S. allies and partner nations so that they can undertake their own defense against terrorists.

The current set of aid packages is heavily weighted toward providing hardware, Nadaner said.

The equipment sets include radar, surveillance tools and sensors, Global Positioning System navigation devices, communications equipment, computer systems and programs, small boats, small trucks and trailers, and spare parts for vehicles, said Nadaner.

Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst with Human Rights Watch and a former Pentagon intelligence analyst, said this aid might be useful in the war on terror. But we have to understand that they might use the equipment in ways that the United States might not want it to be used, in violation of international law, he said.

Private contractors, supervised by the U.S. military, will conduct the training funded by the aid packages. In time, the Pentagon hopes to increase the U.S. military participation in the training.

We want to get a lot more balance in that ratio, said Nadaner.

Peter Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, said that to the extent the U.S. government hires private firms to conduct training of foreign militaries it misses an opportunity to develop an important, if informal, tool -- military-to- military relationships that might be called upon in a future crisis.

You want to make sure that you dont lose those linkages when you outsource the training, Singer said.

Of the eight military aid packages, three involve groups of nations. Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe are grouped in the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Program, designed to provide more effective control of certain West African waters through improved coastal surveillance and operational capabilities. Morocco, Algeria, Chad, Senegal, Tunisia and Nigeria are grouped together into an effort called the Multinational Information Sharing Initiative, which aims to build the capacity of these nations to share data about activities in the region.

Individual programs for Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are focused on improving each nations maritime operations, particularly the strategic sea lanes in Southeast Asia.

With U.S. forces stretched thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rumsfeld and Rice last year sought and secured permission from Congress to use Pentagon operation and maintenance funds for State Department foreign military training programs run by private firms.

This congressional authority was needed to allow the government to deal with quickly developing situations and help partner nations seize counterterrorism opportunities.

While the Cabinet secretaries sought authority to shift $750 million a year for the effort, lawmakers set the bar at $200 million. Because President Bush signed that legislation in January -- with a quarter of the fiscal year lost -- the two departments elected, following an extensive legal review, to pursue programs requiring approximately half of the amount Congress made available.

Bush on May 5 approved a list of countries that qualify for assistance under this provision -- Section 1206 of the fiscal year 2006 defense spending act -- and lawmakers in late July were advised of the eight aid packages.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is lobbying Congress again to raise the transfer authority under this provision to $750 million and make the provision – set up as a two-year pilot program -- permanent. Defense Department leaders also want permission to train internal security forces of a foreign nation.

Nadaner said that in fiscal year 2007, the Pentagon and the State Department intend to take advantage of the full $200 million authority. He also noted that the two departments have key counterterrorism programs in the wings that require $500 million.

We dont have enough authority to meet the full requirement, he said.

Top brass are now weighing in, urging lawmakers responsible for reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2007 defense authorization bills to support changes to Section 1206 advocated by the Defense Department.

Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, commander of U.S. European Command, which is spearheading the initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea and the trans-Sahara region, sent a June 19 letter to numerous members of the House Armed Services Committee underscoring how the alterations sought by the Pentagon will enable a more cooperative and collaborative international fight against terrorism.

Similarly, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, sent a letter on July 21 to the leaders of the House and Senate defense authorization committees noting that Section 1206 will do much to help shift the burden of counterterrorism operations from U.S. to local forces.

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