- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

The Obama administration is seeking billions in budget increases to target terrorism threats from abroad, especially Pakistan and Yemen, with boosts for surveillance and attack drones, special-operations forces and a new military cybercommand.

The focus is on regions that have served as insurgent sanctuaries, where U.S. counterterrorism officials say the next attack against America is likely being planned.

Pentagon aid to Pakistan would balloon to $1.2 billion in 2011, aimed at bolstering its war on internal militants. And military funding to target al Qaeda could double in Yemen, where the U.S. spent more than $6 million last year just on aerial surveillance provided by drones, according to internal documents obtained by the Associated Press.

The rise in proposed counterterrorism spending reflects a new urgency within the administration, dovetailing with warnings this week from top intelligence officials of a possible terrorism strike from abroad within the next six months.

The boost in Pentagon funding would also target a wider array of enemies, from al Qaeda and allied militant networks and dangerous nation-states, to sophisticated computer hackers and homegrown insurgents armed with dirty bombs.

Pentagon and White House officials would not put an overall total on the amount of money in this week’s proposed budget aimed at countering terrorists abroad. Much of that funding is hidden behind classified budgets, including the unacknowledged CIA effort to use drone-launched missiles to target al Qaeda and other militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

But one indication of the sweep of increased spending is evident in a massive Pentagon account used to provide training, equipment and other assistance to foreign militaries. Under President Obama’s budget proposal, that fund would increase from $350 million in 2010 to $500 million in 2011.

Documents obtained by the AP show that the account was used this year to provide counterterrorism aid, training and other programs to countries ranging from Bangladesh and Nigeria to Lebanon and Pakistan. The money paid for training, surveillance activities, aircraft, radar, communications equipment and other resources.

Administration and military officials noted that total U.S. counterterrorism funding also stretches well beyond the visible military aid. It is parceled into economic development, diplomacy and other socioeconomic spending that is designed to stabilize and strengthen countries where insurgents take root.

In Pakistan, an already growing counterinsurgency fund would jump from $700 million combined in 2009 and 2010, to $1.2 billion in 2011. That money would include expanded efforts by special-operations forces to train and equip Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps near the lawless border region that hides al Qaeda and domestic militants.

On Wednesday, three U.S. special-operations soldiers who were participating in that low-profile program were killed and two others wounded in a roadside bomb attack. They were the first known U.S. casualties in northwest Pakistan’s tribal area along the Afghanistan border.

U.S. officials have said they hope to train more than 9,000 members of the Frontier Corps, and slash their previous four-year training time by half. The Frontier Corps is considered a critical ally in rooting out al Qaeda leaders hiding in the mountainous border region.

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