US military trainers trickle back into Pakistan

Published: May 31, 2012

Fewer than 10 US special operations soldiers have been sent to a training site near the border city of Peshawar. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States has sent a handful of military trainers back into Pakistan in a sign the two nations may be able to achieve some low-level cooperation against militants despite a string of confrontations that have left Washington’s relations with Islamabad in crisis.  

Fewer than 10 US special operations soldiers have been sent to a training site near the border city of Peshawar, where they will instruct trainers from Pakistan’s Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency warfare, a US official said.

The number of American military instructors in Pakistan dropped to zero after US aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in late November. Nato labeled the border incident an accident but it enraged Pakistanis and sent already tense ties with the United States into a tailspin.

“I wouldn’t call this a watershed moment (but) it’s not insignificant that this is happening,” the US official said on condition of anonymity.

The picture is less encouraging on cooperation between US and Pakistani intelligence, which several American officials said remained dire as Pakistani officials resist easing restrictions on issuing visas to US intelligence personnel.

In retaliation for the border deaths, Pakistan also shut down ground supply routes crucial for keeping US and Nato soldiers equipped in neighboring Afghanistan, and clamped down on US military personnel operating in Pakistan.

“At a strategic level, the relationship is still at a very rough place,” the official said.

“There’s a lot more we want to do to improve it, but (the trainers’ return) is an important sign that at least in some areas we’re getting a healthy sense of normalcy.”

Normalcy is relative when it comes to relations between the United States and Pakistan, which are nominally allied against Islamist militants but have been frequently pitted against each other in a string of mutual recriminations.

Those include Pakistan’s jailing of a Pakistani doctor who helped the United States hunt down Osama bin Laden last year, as well as the US raid that killed bin Laden, which Islamabad was not informed of beforehand.

At a Nato summit in Chicago this month, President Barack Obama snubbed his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, by refusing to hold a meeting with him because Pakistan had not reopened the supply routes.

US and Pakistani talks aimed at reopening those routes – which becomes more important as Nato nations prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan – appear to be deadlocked over how much supply trucks must pay on their way through Pakistan.

Intelligence cooperation has been strained since the arrest last year of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, whose killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore fueled Pakistanis’ suspicions about American spies roaming their cities.

Military cooperation may be easier to repair, as some of Pakistan’s military leaders were trained in the United States and have more friendly ties with the Pentagon.

In the past, there had been some 200 to 300 US military personnel stationed in Pakistan, many of them training Pakistan special forces to confront militants.

But Islamabad sharply reduced the size of the mission after the bin Laden raid.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Basit
    May 31, 2012 - 4:15AM

    US trainers have usually been proven to be useless and just a means to get US defence contractors rich.

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  • Nadir
    May 31, 2012 - 4:23AM

    Zardari probably rammed this down the powerless Army’s throat right? Because the Army would never sell out

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  • Ali
    May 31, 2012 - 5:41AM

    Welcome Back…………..Not!

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  • sajid
    May 31, 2012 - 7:06AM

    They are coming for spreading terrorism in Pakistan, they are real terrorists….Agree or not.This is truth……….Recommend

  • Mujahid
    May 31, 2012 - 7:45AM

    US footsoldier should not be in pakistan.

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  • Ali Tareen
    May 31, 2012 - 8:10AM

    @Basit: I would disagree, a family friend of mine who is in the army says that the US trainers provide excellent training to soldiers under his command. Both Pakistan and USA can learn a lot from such mutual exchanges. A lot of our soldiers go for training missions and war studies abroad and this is a good thing. The Americans are able to provide such training as a lot of them have extensive war zone experience.

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  • Salma Khan
    May 31, 2012 - 9:33AM

    Haha.

    @Nadir: Spot on. Wonder what army lovers say now? Ooh, our army is pious. how dare you say the truth out loud?

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  • hhh
    May 31, 2012 - 10:31AM

    This would mean terrorist attacks would increase in Pakistan now, as the true intentions of the american war lobby are highly suspicious.

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  • Saadia
    May 31, 2012 - 2:21PM

    If they were good trainers then why US is badly losing the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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  • Malik Hamza
    Jun 1, 2012 - 1:20AM

    our powerful military does not need any training we are already trained and the proof of this is that we have just won Cambrian patrol ,, our frontier corps dont need american tactics cos the wars america fights are totally different to the wars pakistan fights.

    loool , and id american tactics are soo great then why has it taken usa 10 years to beat a few thousand taliban or al Qaeda ?????????????

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  • SoundOfFury
    Jun 1, 2012 - 6:21AM

    @Saadia:

    How did the US lose Iraq? They defeated the insurgency and the govt they formed is still standing. We will see how the Afghan govt fares after 2014.

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  • SoundOfFury
    Jun 1, 2012 - 6:24AM

    @Malik Hamza:

    Umm because they were fighting in Iraq instead and the FC has lost many. Troops to the Taliban.

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  • SouthEastAsian
    Jun 1, 2012 - 3:54PM

    We Indians welcome you to Pakistan with all our hearts. May you stay there for a long time and be successful in your tasks !

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