Kayani asked for “continuous Predator coverage”
140777 2/11/2008 11:27 08ISLAMABAD609 Embassy Islamabad SECRET “VZCZCXRO4695
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY” “S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 000609
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2028
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, MARR, MOPS, PK
SUBJECT: ADMIRAL FALLON DISCUSSES SECURITY COOPERATION WITH GENERAL KAYANI
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. Admiral William J. Fallon, USCENTCOM Commander, met with Pakistan’s General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, on 22 January. Kayani provided a snapshot of Pakistan’s current overall security situation and described the status of counter-insurgency efforts in Swat. Fallon and Kayani also discussed areas for expanded military assistance and training, as well as Pakistan’s way forward in improving close air support. Finally, Kayani commented on improved cooperation with Afghanistan. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) Admiral Fallon began by offering condolences on the December 28 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and asking General Kayani for his assessment of the current security situation. Kayani agreed Bhutto’s death was a tragedy and a destabilizing event for Pakistan, particularly in Sindh province. Commenting on the overall security situation, Kayani noted that, despite the rising incidents of suicide attacks, things remained relatively normal throughout the country. The Army had deployed more broadly during the recent holy month of Muharram, (a period often marked by sectarian violence), but had since returned to their cantonments.
3. (C) Regarding Baitullah Mehsud, (generally considered responsible for Bhutto’s assassination), Kayani said that he posed a serious problem for Pakistan. Mehsud had shifted his focus from cross border attacks to internal assaults against Pakistan security forces and was conducting training for militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
4. (C) Regarding security for elections, Kayani stressed that the Army should have no role in the February 18 election – an exceptionally important election for Pakistan. It was, he said, the Election Commission’s duty to ensure free and fair elections. The Army would only be involved if there were a need to preserve law and order to facilitate elections.
SECURITY IN SWAT
5. (C) Kayani said the militants had been cleared from Swat’s population centers. They were, however, still present in Peochar and adjacent tribal areas where pockets of resistance remained. Kayani dismissed media reports of the resurgence of extremist group Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM). The Frontier Corps had initially been tasked to confront the militants in late October 2007, but within a few weeks it became clear the Army would be needed. The Army regained control of the area after 2 to 3 weeks.
6. (C) While Kayani felt the Army could not remain a significant force there forever, he said there would be a continuing need for troops to control entry routes into the district. Also, the perception among some that continued security was dependent on the presence of the Army had led to plans for a small garrison in the area.
7. (C) The important thing, said Kayani, was that local people were against the insurgents and it was key to the Army’s success to cultivate popular support. The Army has distributed 1 million rupees (approximately 16,700 USD) in development aid to Swat. (Kayani noted the Army had previously offered similar assistance in FATA.) Kayani asserted that it was now critical for civilian government to take control in Swat.
8. (S) In response to Fallon’s questions regarding military assistance, Kayani first focused on the need for surveillance assets. Emphasizing the urgent need for tactical SIGINT capability for Pakistan’s military aircraft, Kayani said he understood the U.S. was working on this issue and would have an assessment team in Pakistan shortly. Kayani said he was not interested in acquiring Predators, but was interested in tactical level Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). He noted these were expensive and asked if the U.S. could grant or loan them to Pakistan. ISLAMABAD 00000609 002 OF 003 CHALLENGES IN CLOSE AIR SUPPORT
9. (C) Kayani stated that President Musharraf had instructed him to examine the various U.S. options available to enhance Pakistan’s close air support capability, but not to commit to any of them. After considering the issue, Kayani had concluded Pakistan could not accept U.S. aircraft in support of Pakistan Army operations because it ran counter to the Army’s need to effectively handle combat operations on its own.
10. (C) Kayani also noted his own policy of selective use of aircraft in supporting operations as he felt employing combat aircraft within Pakistan would send the message that the level of conflict had escalated dramatically. He admitted to reluctantly employing F-16s in South Waziristan within the past few days, following direct assaults on Laddha Fort, including hundreds of rocket attacks. (Note: The use of the F-16s was presumably largely a show of force as the aircraft can only be employed during the day, while the attacks were at night. End Note.)
11. (C) Referring to the situation in Waziristan, Kayani asked if Fallon could assist in providing continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area. Fallon regretted that he did not have the assets to support this request, but offered Joint Tactical Aircraft Controller (JTAC) support for Pakistani aircraft. Kayani demurred, saying that having U.S. JTACs on the ground would not be politically acceptable. Fallon then offered JTAC training for Pakistani troops. After a brief discussion on the complexity of building a night-capable, air-to-ground capability in the Pakistani Army, Kayani conceded Pakistan could not currently undertake such a big project.
12. (C) Kayani stated his preferred aerial support weapon against militants continued to be the Cobra Attack Helicopter. He observed ruefully that maintenance issues still plagued the Army; one hour of flight time corresponded to 24 hours of maintenance. Kayani said that only two operational Cobras were available in the FATA. Fallon responded that a U.S. Army helicopter maintenance team was currently in Pakistan to provide both short and long term recommendations to improve Pakistan’s rotary sustainment.
OFFER OF ADDITIONAL U.S. TRAINING
13. (C) Fallon offered a more permanent training team at the Special Service Group’s Tarbela camp to complement the current Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program. Kayani responded that a steady stream of U.S. Special Forces trainers were already directing courses there throughout the year. Fallon explained that the small Special Forces team he was proposing could assist in ongoing training management, as well as doctrine, command and control issues, and other higher-level functions. Kayani said the Pakistan military did not need training and asked Fallon to give priority to his equipment requests. (COMMENT: It is the assessment of CENTCOM and Post that the Pakistan military needs and would benefit from additional Special Operations Forces and focused counterterrorism training. END COMMENT)
FRONTIER CORPS TRAINING
14. (C) Kayani initially said equipping the Frontier Corps was a higher priority than training, but LTG Salahuddin Satti, his Chief of General Staff, and MG Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General Military Operations, weighed in regarding the importance of training. Kayani then conceded that leadership training for the Frontier Corps was more critical, but feared it would take years to show results.
AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN MILITARY COOPERATION
15. (C) Kayani said that the most recent Tripartite meeting with ISAF General McNeill and Afghanistan General Bismullah Khan on December 31 had gone well. He added that he had given General Khan a “”blank check”" to send Afghanistan National Army troops to Pakistan’s military schools. He praised the plan to establish multiple Border Coordination Centers as a good concept that would enhance cooperation. ISLAMABAD 00000609 003 OF 003 16. (U) Admiral Fallon has cleared this cable.