Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pakistan threatens troop pull-back from Afghan border

Pakistan's defence minister has threatened to pull back troops from the Afghan border in response to US military aid cuts, according to exceprts of a television interview broadcast Tuesday.

"I think the next step is, the government or the armed forces will move the soldiers from the border areas," Ahmed Mukhtar told Express 24/7.

"If at all things become difficult, we will just get our armed forces back."

White House chief of Staff William Daley said Sunday that the United States had decided to withhold a third of its annual $2.7 billion security assistance to Islamabad, sinking relations to a new low after Osama bin Laden's killing.

The suspended $800 million reportedly includes about $300 million used to reimburse Pakistan for some costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border, a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

"We cannot afford to keep our military... it costs you (an) extra amount of money, when you are having soldiers in the mountains, so we will definitely use that tool," Mukhtar told English-language television Express 24/7.

The military did not respond to an AFP request for confirmation of the threatened drawdown. The civilian defence minister is normally only informed rather than consulted on operational decisions taken by the army.

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