In recent months, outsourcing has been elevated to a whole new level.

Forget about help desks and computer programmers. The Pentagon is now outsourcing its fighting men. The US army is renting out entire divisions of the Pakistan army. According to US assistant sec¬retary of state Richard Boucher, the Pentagon is pay¬ing around $100 million a month for the deployment of 80,000 troops on its bor¬der with Afghanistan, ostensibly for the war on terrorism. $100 million may seem like a lot of money, but it is actually Wal-Mart prices. It works out to around $1200 per month per soldier – the price includes ammunition and gasoline for military transports – and is a tiny fraction of what the US spends on its own troops. Not everyone is happy with this deal, of course – considering that Pakistan receives a further $300 million in military aid from the US. One US Congressman asked how the administration could justify to the American people writing checks for billions of dollars to a regime that may not be the partner against terrorism the US needs it to be, but may actually be hurt¬ing national security interests of the US and her allies. He has a point. It is one of the world’s worst-kept secrets, that Osama Bin Laden and Al Zawahari - not to mention hundreds of Taliban insurgents – are safely ensconced in Pakistan; probably with the tacit knowledge and approval of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Some would argue that it is in Pakistan’s own interest in maintaining a strong military presence on its Western border. This is myth, perpetrated by the Bush administration and its client, President/General Musharaff. It is not supported by those who have studied Pakistan’s history. Ever since it’s formation 60 years ago, there is only one country that Pakistan considers its real enemy: India. That is why the bulk of its military forces have always – and continue to be – concentrated along its Eastern border. Even today, no one really knows how much of that $400 million in annual military aid is diverted towards purchasing bombers and submarines aimed at India. Pakistan has never regarded its Western border with Afghanistan as a trouble spot. On the contrary, it has proved to be quite lucrative to previous Pakistani rulers. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Pakistan: partly as payment for setting up listening posts for spying on the Soviets; and as a conduit for funneling arms to the Afghan mujahedin – one of whom, by the way, went by the name of Osama Bin Laden. How much of this American largesse was swallowed up by Pakistani middlemen is anybody’s guess. When the Taliban started flexing its muscles in Afghanistan, Pakistan was not merely a benign observer: it actively encouraged and supported them with arms and money. And remember, Pakistan was one of only two countries in the world that recognized the Taliban, after they took over Afghanistan. The Pakistan government’s motives were far from altruistic. For one thing, a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was a client state that posed no threat – and hence, Pakistan was free to deploy the bulk of its military forces against India. For another, the Taliban – and its honoured guests, Al Qaeda, provided a useful training ground for Kashmiri jihadists, who could then be sneaked into India to commit random acts of violence. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s cozy arrangement with the Taliban collapsed after 9/11. As Musharaff admits in his autobiography, Bush bluntly told him to support the US against the Taliban, or ‘be bombed back into the stone age’. Bush keeps tom-toming Pakistan as an important ally in the fight against terrorism, but from the General’s viewpoint, it is a reluctant marriage of convenience. Not that it has been entirely unprofitable. Along with Israel and Egypt, Pakistan today is the highest recipient of US aid in the world. The Bush administration is a golden goose that the good general has no intention of killing. Hence, he keeps fostering

the impression that he is absolutely indispensable in the fight against terror. Yeah, right. So let’s come back to those 80,000 rented soldiers. How much bang is the US really getting for its big bucks? According to Boucher, "If they didn't have the 80,000 troops in the border area, God knows what would be going on out there - not any¬thing we could deal with ourselves, I'm sure." And are the Pakistani mercenaries dealing with it? The facts on the ground suggest that, far from controlling the Afghani insurgents, there has been a surge in Taliban activity in recent months – and more US soldiers are being killed than ever before. You can draw your own conclusions.