Australia to train Pakistani troops in CI operations
Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Australia is to train a small number of Pakistani troops in counter-insurgency operations to enable Islamabad better take on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the restive tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, it was announced in Canberra Wednesday.
Agreement on initially training some 70 troops came during a meeting between visiting Pakistani military chief Gen. Tariq Majid and Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
'Pakistan's success in its conflict with Taliban extremists on its soil is critical to regional and global security, as well as Australia's own national interest,' Fitzgibbon said in a statement after the meeting.
Australian troops are part of the US-led coalition forces fighting the militants in Afghanistan.
During his two-day visit to Canberra, Majid, who is the chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, also met his Australian counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.
Majid's designation apart, effective control of Pakistan's armed forces vests in the country's army chief.
The agreement on training comes four days after Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parevz Kayani said it had developed an effective counter-insurgency grid and did not really need any foreign assistance for this.
Kayani, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement Saturday, 'stated that Pakistan Army has developed a full range of counter insurgency training facilities tailored to train troops for such operations.
'Therefore, except for very specialized weapons and equipment, high technology, no generalized foreign training is required.
'Uncalled for aspersions through various quarters on our training methods/orientation is apparently due to lack of knowledge and understanding of our training system in vogue,' Kayani said.
The Pakistani military had gone into action April 26 after the Taliban violated a controversial peace accord with the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy the Buner district that is just 100 km from Islamabad.
The operations had initially begun in Lower Dir, the home district of Taliban-backed radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered the peace accord, and later spread to Buner and Swat.
The military says over 1,000 militants have so far been killed. However, no consolidated figures have been released of casualties among the security forces.
The military action has seen nearly 2.5 million civilians fleeing the fighting. The Pakistani government has released Rs.1 billion for their relief and appealed for massive internal assistance in the effort.
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