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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.