US cutting back troops in Pakistan amid tensions

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2011 (AFP) – The US military said Wednesday it has begun pulling some American troops out of Pakistan after Islamabad requested a smaller presence, amid tensions over a US raid against Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani government had asked for a scaling back of the US contingent of more than 200 troops earlier this month, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said.

“We were recently (within the past 2 weeks) notified in writing that the government of Pakistan wished for the US to reduce its footprint in Pakistan. Accordingly, we have begun those reductions,” Lapan said in a statement.

He did not say how many troops would be pulled out. Most of the US personnel are special forces that train and advise Pakistani troops as part of a long-running effort to counter Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants.

The withdrawal of some US troops underscored the crisis between the two countries in the aftermath of the US raid that killed bin Laden on May 2, despite US diplomatic efforts to smooth over tensions.

The difficult relationship between Pakistan and the United States has come under severe strain after US commandos swooped in on the Al-Qaeda chief’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad,