Pak's ire at air strike may jeopardize US' FC troops' training program: NYT

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Islamabad, June 18 : Last week's US' air strike in Pakistan's tribal areas killing 11 FC (Frontier Corps) troops has scarred the US' anti-terror alliance with Pakistan to such an extent that the Pakistan Army is now thinking to call off an American program to train its (Pakistan's) paramilitary force in counterinsurgency for combating Islamist militants.

According to two Pakistani government officials, Americans deliberately fired on their military. "Such types of incidents may affect the training program by the US for the Frontier Corps," the spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Athar Abbas had said on Monday.

Jehangir Karamat, former chief of the Pakistani Army and ambassador to the US, said: "This is the first time the United States has deliberately targeted cooperating Pakistani forces. There has been no statement by the US that this was 'friendly fire' and that the intention was not to target Pakistani forces."

The 400-million-dollar training program is intended to train FC troops to combat militancy by fielding them from among the tribes that live in the areas bordering Afghanistan.

It was a compromise between American and Pakistani officials looking for the least intrusive way to fortify security in an area where the Pakistani government has rejected the idea of American soldiers and where even the regular Pakistani Army is often not welcome, reported the New York Times.

Ending or delaying the program, which is already under way, would deny the US what little leverage it has in the tribal areas to combat a rising number of cross-border attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan against American and NATO forces this year, added the paper.

The US military said the airstrikes had been carried out in self-defense against militants who had attacked American forces in Afghanistan and then fled into Pakistan. But the Pakistanis continue to dispute important parts of the American account.

The recriminations from Pakistan have exposed the underlying mistrust in the alliance, which has been held together in large part by the personal relationship between President Pervez Musharraf and President Bush, said Pakistani officials and diplomats.

As the two men (Musharraf and Bush) fade from power, the US-Pak alliance is finding it difficult to quell the threat to the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan from a growing array of Taliban and Qaeda cells that are dug into Pakistan's tribal areas, the Pakistani officials and diplomats added.

A senior Pakistani government official with long experience in military affairs, one of the two Pakistani officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, summed up the feeling of many in the Pakistani military, saying the strikes appeared deliberate - despite American denials - and intended to "punish" Pakistan for not preventing Islamist militants from crossing into Afghanistan.

ANI

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