The US military said on Wednesday that it has begun pulling some American troops out of Pakistan after Islamabad requested a smaller presence.
“We were recently (within the past 2 weeks) notified in writing that the government of Pakistan wished for the US to reduce its footprint in Pakistan. Accordingly, we have begun those reductions,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said in a statement.
The number of trainers currently in Pakistan was not disclosed but Lapan said the entire military mission ranged between 200 and 300 people. He also did not say how many troops will be pulled out. Other Pakistani and US military sources in Pakistan said the special forces training component formerly numbered around 120 and would be drawn down to less than 50.
The drawdown comes days after reports that the US embassy in Islamabad is extending its premises by 8.5 acres of land, apparently to accommodate its growing staff in Pakistan. Other US troops are involved in helicopter maintenance, liaising with the Pakistani military and aid efforts. It is unclear if they will also be withdrawn.
According to Pakistani security officials, the decision to reduce American troops’ presence in Pakistan was made three days after a US raid in Abbottabad that killed former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Although relations soured between Pakistan and the US after the Abbottabad operation, a similar demand had reportedly been made by Pakistani officials even before the raid.
According to a recent report in The Washington Post, Pakistani officials had told the Americans they wanted about 20 to 30 of the roughly 150 special forces troops to be withdrawn after CIA operative Raymond Davis shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.
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