An elite team of British military trainers in Pakistan, there to train front line forces in the struggle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, has been asked to leave the country. The freezing of the UK mission is being linked to deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad.
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Britain’s £15m effort to bolster Pakistan’s Frontier Corps is on ice. The bulk of its team – thought to number 18 to 20 soldiers – is already back in the UK.
Latest Pakistan drone attack kills at least 13
At least 13 people were reported killed in a drone strike in Pakistan’s South Waziristan area today. The attack – the 277th CIA attack since 2004, according to analysis by the Bureau – occurred in the village of Shawal on the borders between North and South Waziristan. The strike was focused on a car and compound alleged to be linked to local militant commander Maulvi Nazir.
The deaths came hours after the Bureau broke the story that British military trainers have been asked to leave Pakistan as a result of deteriorating relations between Islamabad and the West – in part a consequence of continuing US drone strikes.
A spokeswoman told the Bureau that the advisers have ‘been asked to withdraw on a temporary basis by the Pakistan Government in response to security concerns. The training teams will continue their own training and will be ready to re-deploy at the first possible opportunity.’
The UK has been asked to withdraw some of its training support teams on a temporary basis by the Pakistan Government in response to security concerns. We are providing training support at the invitation of the Pakistan Government and welcome their advice on these matters.
Ministry of Defence
A key asset in the fight against the Taliban
The military advisers – all experienced officers or senior NCOs, had been stationed at a new British-built base for Pakistan’s Frontier Corps near Quetta, Balochistan. The training scheme proper began last August with the multi-million pound scheme not scheduled to end until at least summer 2013.
The paramilitary Frontier Corps has been identified by NATO as a key asset in its fight against the Taliban and other militant groups. The Corps’ 60,000 troops operate in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghanistan border, where they frequently engage the Taliban and other militants. But the Corps had been perceived by the Western military as poorly equipped and trained.
Training for Frontier Corps soldiers suspended
Working alongside six US military trainers at the Quetta camp, the British advisers were reportedly training 360 Frontier Corps soldiers at a time, on 12-week courses. Their eviction is believed to be a by-product of deteriorating US-Pakistani relations and there is no question of the British mission having failed. The UK does not see the incident as a diplomatic sleight, and hopes to be able to return in the near future.
American military advisers running a second Frontier Corps training base in Peshawr have also been ordered out, and the majority of around 150 advisers have reportedly left the country. Pakistani media alleged this week that US trainers recently clashed with base guards when prevented from retrieving personal effects from their former home. The US Embassy in Islamabad has denied the incident.
US reducing its troop numbers in Pakistan
A senior military spokesman in Islamabad told the Bureau that while the US is reducing the number of forces it has there at the request of the Pakistani government, that between 200 and 300 US military personnel presently remain.
Even before Osama bin Laden’s killing, relations between the US and Pakistan had been souring. Following the March arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the US was reportedly asked to reduce the number of its military advisers by a quarter. High civilian casualties in a number of subsequent CIA drone strikes provoked further anger. Since bin Laden’s death military co-operation between the two nations has stalled. The Pakistan military, long an eager recipient of US military aid, recently suggested that such funding now be diverted to “reducing the burden on the common man.”
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