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A team of British military trainers working in Pakistan has left the country after a request for their removal by the Pakistani government. The exit of the trainers appears to be the most recent casualty of extremely strained US-Pakistan relations, which have prompted a decline in Pakistan's relations with all its Western allies.
Relations between Pakistan and Britain are not as beleaguered as those between Pakistan and the US, but the Army, formerly the most revered institution in the country, has been under a barrage of criticism since the unilateral US raid on Osama bin Laden's compound that led to the terrorist leader's death. Pakistan is now looking to prove its independence from all of its Western allies, the Guardian reports.
The trainers were in the country to work with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which operates along the Afghan border in the country's northwest. The 60,000-strong corps is the "front line" against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but its troops are poorly trained and lack adequate equipment. Western countries have prioritized bolstering its competency.
At least 120 US trainers who were mostly working with the Frontier Corps outside Peshawar were sent home earlier, according to the Guardian. More than two-thirds of the American soldiers training the paramilitary group have been sent home since Mr. bin Laden's death, The Telegraph reports. Pakistan first began ordering them out after covert CIA contractor Raymond Davis, working in the country under the guise of being a US embassy official, shot and killed two men in Lahore in January.
Pakistanis are concerned that if the government doesn't gain control over militants operating in the country, the US will escalate its covert operations there, which is likely to only increase the hostilities between the two countries, the International Business Times reports.
While the Pakistani government maintain that combatting terrorism remains its priority, those who will benefit the most from the withdrawal of western troops certainly will be the Pakistani Taliban. A further declining of the US-Pakistan or Pakistan-West relationship could prove dangerous for both countries and put their enemies at advantage. While Pakistan is making clear that it does not appreciate violations to its sovereignty and attempt to prove that it is very much still in charge of the country and its military, completely parting away from its western allies might not prove the best solution as the regime is far from being as stable and solid as it pretends to be.
The Frontier Corps, which draws most of its recruits from Pashtun tribes in the region, has suffered heavy losses while staging attacks on Taliban strongholds in the mountains and being targeted by suicide bombers. It has also been accused of human rights violations for its vicious approach to combating nationalist insurgents in the area who bear no connection to the Taliban, including "illegal abductions and extra-judicial executions," according to the Guardian.
Earlier this month, Pakistani media reported that US trainers clashed with Pakistani paramilitary as they tried to enter the Frontier Corps complex in Peshawar after they were ordered out. However, the US embassy in Islamabad denied the reports.
The British defense ministry expects the expelled trainers, numbering at least 18, to be able to return when current tensions subside. The program, based in Quetta, was scheduled to run until at least summer 2013.