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Britain building Pakistan border force camp: report

world Updated: Oct 09, 2009 18:46 IST

Britain is building a training camp for Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps to help in the fight against the Taliban in the lawless border area with southern Afghanistan, a report said on Friday.

The Times said Britain also planned to base 24 army trainers at the camp in the southwestern province of Baluchistan for a three-year stint from August next year, when construction is due to finish.

The British personnel would work alongside six US trainers at the camp, which is designed to house 550 people, the newspaper reported, quoting a senior official at the British High Commission in Islamabad.

The camp will train 360 Frontier Corps soldiers at a time, on 12-week courses, the official said.

The report said the plan was politically sensitive because the British and US trainers will be the first foreign forces formally stationed in Baluchistan since Pakistan's independence in 1947, although US special forces operated there during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The development has historical resonance for Britain, which founded the Frontier Corps in 1907 to control rebellious tribes on the North West Frontier, and used to recruit and train troops for the army in Baluchistan.

The British official emphasised to the Times that British and US personnel at the camp would conduct only "conventional military training" and would not operate alongside Pakistani forces outside its confines.

The Frontier Corps recruits would be taught basic skills such as how to deal with an improvised explosive device, how to man a checkpoint and search a vehicle, how to handle light weapons and how to perform first aid.

US officials believe that top Afghan Taliban leaders are sheltering in Quetta, the provincial capital of the border region, and using the area to coordinate attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was the chief ally of Afghanistan's extremist Taliban until the September 11, 2001 attacks, when then military ruler Pervez Musharraf changed tack to make Islamabad the key partner in the US-led "war on terror."

A wide-ranging review of US policy in Afghanistan has concluded that the Taliban poses less of a threat to US security than Al-Qaeda, the White House said this week.

The findings raise speculation that President Barack Obama may not opt for a vastly increased counter-insurgency force in Afghanistan.

The commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has reportedly asked Obama to send up to 40,000 more troops.