Taking on the Taliban: Pakistan Takes Millions to Try to Topple Militants

"Just name it and we need it," Pakistani police tell ABC News.

ByABC News
January 14, 2009, 1:16 PM

Jan. 14, 2009— -- ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The U.S. began handing over $4.1 million worth of security equipment to Pakistan's overwhelmed Northwest Frontier Province police today, an indication of just how much assistance the police and military need to battle militants near its violent border with Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials admit they need help to battle a Taliban that has never been stronger and has never encroached further into Pakistan's settled areas, next door to the lawless tribal areas. The Taliban and its allies, official admit, are simply too well funded and too strong to be defeated by Pakistani police and paramilitary forces that have never been trained for counterinsurgency.

In the latest sign of how unstable the province has become, the NWFP government is shelving nearly all of its development projects, a government official told ABC News, and it will soon be transferring $3 billion from its development budget to its security budget.

Today the U.S. handed over 3,000 bulletproof jackets, 3,000 helmets, 67 small trucks, and almost 100 motorcycles, according to people knowledgeable of the gift.

But the police need much more than that if they are going to confront the combination of local militants, local criminals, and Pakistani Taliban from North and South Waziristan who have begun to launch attacks on the edges of the settled areas, most notably in Peshawar. Kidnappings for ransom in Peshawar increased by 90 percent last year, according to Malik Naveed, the Northwest Frontier Province chief of police -- and that does not include an undoubtedly larger number of unreported kidnappings.

He said he needs more helicopters, armored personnel carriers, more wireless equipment, and many more bulletproof jackets and helmets.

"Just name it and we need it," he told ABC News.

The money for the police equipment, paid for by the State Department, is an element in larger efforts geared toward helping the Frontier Corps paramilitary and police, officials say. In the last few months those efforts have included training by U.S. military officials.

"The handover of the equipment is part of the United States Government's ongoing Border Security Project with the Government of Pakistan," the U.S. embassy said in a statement today.

Precision laser targeting for its American-made F-16s

Night vision goggles for troops (the Americans have provided some, the official says, but "it's not even in the hundreds")

Eavesdropping equipment and communications devices that will enable the military to locate militants' locations

More bulletproof jackets for its underfunded and undertrained Frontier Corps, which is doing the majority of the fighting along the border

Jamming equipment to protect vehicles from IEDs

"The other side is offering to the foot soldiers much more than what a constable is getting on our side," the official says. The Taliban, he adds, is funded mostly by crime and drug money coming from Afghanistan.

"It reflects a lack of trust [between the Pakistan and U.S. militaries]," he says. "What else can Pakistan army can prove or exhibit when there are lives are at stake and there is great loss?"