A Few Real Good Friends
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf may have banned the U.S. military from chasing down al Qaeda within his country's borders, but U.S. Special Forces teams are training his elite special operations forces to do the job. In sharing this information with U.S. News , Brig. Gen. Francis Kearney, the new commander of special operations forces in the Central Command region covering the Middle East, South Asia, and Horn of Africa, sought to illustrate the kind of partnerships that the U.S. military has been able to forge with countries often seen as skittish or recalcitrant.
Pakistan is a case in point. The main impediment to its cooperation was, in Kearney's view, the long break in military ties with Washington until the 9/11 attacks. "It's all about staying the course," Kearney says, "building a relationship."
Like Pakistan, the Horn of Africa is another area of terrorist activity. In Ethiopia and Kenya, U.S. special operations soldiers are conducting exercises dubbed Nectar Bend and Noble Piper to help train local forces in counterterrorism and border-control skills. In Yemen, where radical Islamists move through the wide-open border with Saudi Arabia, Yemeni troops have graduated from training with U.S. operators to knocking down insurgent bases on their own. Twice in recent months, their elite troops, led by the Yemeni ruler's son, have interrupted counterterrorism training with the Americans to launch real operations. The country is a valuable partner because it is right across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia where, Kearney says, "we believe there are [terrorist] training camps and a regular network of folks moving back and forth."
Partners. Exercises run by the European Command have brought a growing group of West African countries into the counterterrorism fold, including Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad, and Nigeria. Saudi Arabia keeps its military cooperation on a low profile, but officials say the country has acted on leads from Iraq to round up al Qaeda militants at home and shared its own leads on Saudi troublemakers. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have captured more high-level al Qaeda members than the United States, which in turn has helped paint increasingly detailed pictures of the terrorist network. Other officials remain skeptical, saying the Saudis have been selective and have continued to fund a huge worldwide Wahhabist movement that generates more jihadists than they pick up.
In Asia, Malaysia has become newly cooperative, and since 9/11 U.S. forces have conducted annual counterterrorism exercises in the Philippines to help fight its Abu Sayyaf Group. Gen. Mike Hindmarsh, the Australian special operations commander, declines to discuss his forces' role in Afghanistan and Iraq but outlines the extensive cooperation it has in the region with Asian neighbors and the United States.
One of the best counterterrorism allies the United States has is Jordan, but it was so wary of a backlash at home that it kept its role hidden during the Iraq war. The chief of Jordan's special operations command, Brig. Gen. Jamal al Shawabkeh, in a rare interview, talked about his forces' training of Iraqi special operations units. Jordan's special forces were modeled on the U.S. Green Berets, who have helped train them since their founding in 1963. "We have the very same organization," Jamal says. King Abdullah, who once led Jordan's commandos, sends them as instructors to countries where American forces may be less welcome.
This story appears in the August 1, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.