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US Special Forces in Pakistan at Pak Govt's invitation: State Department


April 13, 2011 - Washington

The United States has said that its military trainers in Pakistan are at the invitation of the Pakistan Government to support security systems programs in the country, and that the US wants to keep that program alive.

Commenting on reports that the Pakistanis had asked the US to 'actually ask for the departure of a large number of Americans who are there, apparently, including military Special Forces people,' Acting Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner replied: "Well, obviously, that contingent [US military trainers]- and I believe it's only about 300 individuals- they're there to help train Pakistani military."

"They're there at the invitation of the Government of Pakistan to support security systems programs there. And it's a function - our presence there, rather, is a function of the amount and type of training and equipping required to meet the Pakistani Government's requests and requirements. So we want to work closely, we want to keep that program alive, we think it's important," he added.

When asked specifically whether Pakistan had asked US for a large-scale drawdown, Toner said: "Well, there have been conversations that are ongoing between the U.S. and Pakistan about these kind of requirements and also the force levels that are associated with them, but no decisions have been made."

On the rocky US-Pakistan relations on intelligence sharing, and therefore on the broader relationship, Toner emphasised that both nations remain strategic partners.

"We've got a shared commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship, and we've been through a difficult period. I think other people, individuals, U.S. officials have acknowledged that, including our Ambassador there, Cameron Munter. And we're working to get the relationship back on track. We're looking to renew the relationship in a way and getting past the difficulty of - that the Raymond Davis case caused," he said.

"But apart from the counterterrorism cooperation, Toner said, it was also important to "recognise that's obviously the focus of so much interest, media interest and otherwise, that it's not one-dimensional relationship."

"And we've got assistance like the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act that's providing 1.5 billion and focusing on infrastructure building, institution building, the kinds of long-term actions that are going to help build a stronger Pakistan in the future. And that's ultimately our goal is to strengthen Pakistan, make it a stronger democracy so that it's more resistant to these internal threats," he added.

ANI

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