WASHINGTON — The United States has agreed to scale back the number of American troops stationed in Pakistan amid tense relations with Islamabad, a US official said Wednesday.
The move was the latest sign of strain between the two countries in the wake of a US raid in May deep inside Pakistan that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Abbotabad.
“There have been discussions for some time for the future footprint of US military personnel in Pakistan,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Instead of the roughly 300 US troops that have been deployed in Pakistan, the contingent would be cut roughly in half to “between 100 and 150,” the official said.
Under the agreement, the number of elite special operations forces training Pakistan troops to take on Islamist militants would be dramatically reduced, the official said.
“The training footprint will be much more limited,” the official said.
The deal could leave in place as few as a dozen special operators, instead of the roughly 140 now in Pakistan.
Soon after the unilateral raid on Bin Laden’s compound that angered and embarrassed leaders in Islamabad, Pakistan demanded the US military drastically reduce its presence in the country.
President Barack Obama’s deputies have since voiced growing frustration with Islamabad for failing to move against Pakistan-based Haqqani militants targeting US forces in Afghanistan, leaving open the possibility of unilateral American action.
But the US official said the agreement on troop numbers was “not at all a signal of a breach of the partnership.”