The departure of US troops training Frontier Corps personnel have almost finshed and most of them have already left facilities across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, paramilitary officials in Peshawar confirmed on Monday.
Presence of a large number of security personnel was observed at the United States consulate in the provincial capital, which is probably the main point of departure for the American troops.
An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune: “At least 30 Americans have so far left Peshawar for Islamabad in five vehicles on their way home.”
The official explained that security had been enhanced to ensure safe departure of the US personnel.
“They are leaving under Pakistan’s new policy to reduce the number of American troops and other non-diplomatic staff,” he said.
Another security official told The Express Tribune: “The Americans were asked to leave 20 days ago.” Their departure, he said, had been delayed because of a hold-up in pulling together machinery and other equipment.
A Frontier Corps official said: “All American trainers have now gone back.” The US trainers were being housed in the historical Balahisar Fort in city.
“There were 14 trainers who were training Frontier Corps personnel in counter-insurgency techniques and use of modern weapons.”
The presence of US troops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was first highlighted after a roadside bombing in Lower Dir on February 2, 2009 killed nine people on February 2, including three Americans. Back then, US personnel were training Pakistani paramilitary troops in Warsak, which is located on the boundary between Peshawar, Mohmand Agency and Khyber Agency.
The facility was closed down about 20 days ago after consultations between top civil and military leaders, sources said.
A spokesperson for the US military in Pakistan confirmed that there were between 250 and 300 American troops in Pakistan. Another American official, who wished not to be named, said that the presence of American troops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been “lowered to non-existent level”.
Expressing the hope of future military cooperation between the two countries said that it was now up to the Pakistani authorities “where, how and when they want to carry out joint a joint military venture”.
On June 10, the US embassy in Islamabad issued a statement regarding the reduction of US military personnel in Pakistan, quoting Vice-Admiral Michael LeFever, Chief of the Office of the Defence Representative, Pakistan, as saying: “The total number of US military forces in Pakistan is determined at the request of and in conjunction with the government and military of Pakistan…the US remains ready to help (the country) with the security requirements of Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2011.