Publication time: 19 November 2007
The US is considering a plan to create gangs of mercenaries from local population in the border areas of Pakistan to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, emulating its tactics in Iraq's Anbar province.
The plan would involve increasing the number of US trainers in Pakistan by dozens from the current number of around 50, and the direct financing of a separate tribal "paramilitary force" that has so far proved largely ineffective. Washington would also pay militias that agreed to fight al-Qaida and foreign "extremists".
The plan, leaked to the New York Times, comes amid increasing concern over gains made by Islamic rebels in the region of Swat, near the Afghan border. In recent weeks, major battles have left many Pakistani soldiers, rebels and civilians dead.
Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said one of the main reasons for imposing emergency rule was to deal with the growing threat from Islamic rebels.
The tribal proposal - a strategy paper prepared by staff members of the US special operations command - has been circulated to counterterrorism experts, but has yet to be formally approved by the command's headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the Times said.
Some other elements of the campaign, approved in principle by the US and Pakistan, await funding.
They include 0m (£170.7m) over several years to help train and equip the frontier corps, a "paramilitary force" that has around 85,000 members and is recruited from border tribes.
In the past, the US has expressed frustration at Musharraf's tactics in dealing with rebels in the border area, especially a truce, agreed earlier this year, which has backfired, with pro-Taliban forces becoming stronger.
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