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US struggles to train Pak army

world Updated: Jul 12, 2010 23:54 IST

The recent graduation ceremony in Warsak for Pakistani troops trained by Americans to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda was intended as show of fresh cooperation between the Pakistani and American militaries. But it said as much about its limitations.

Nearly 250 Pakistani paramilitary troops in khaki uniforms and green berets snapped to attention, with top students accepting a certificate from an American Army colonel after completing the specialised training for snipers and platoon and company leaders.

But this new centre, near the Afghanistan border, was built to train as many as 2,000 soldiers at a time. The largest component of the American-financed instruction — a 10-week basic-training course — is months behind schedule, officials from both sides acknowledge, in part because Pakistani commanders say they cannot afford to send troops for new training as fighting intensifies in the border areas.

Today the American-led war in Afghanistan and its continuing campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas have made the US suspect at all levels of the military, and among the Pakistanis as anti-Americanism has hit new heights.

This training program is among the first steps to repair that relationship. “This is the most complex operating environment I’ve ever dealt with,” said Col. Kurt Sonntag, a West Point graduate who handed out the graduation certificates here.