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US troops to leave Pak quake-hit areas soon

Some 750 American troops in Pakistan's quake-hit areas will begin withdrawing from the middle of this month.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2006 16:47 IST

Some 750 American troops in Pakistan's quake-hit areas will begin withdrawing from the middle of this month.

The withdrawal will close the biggest ever external relief operations carried out by the US, officials said on Sunday.

The US troop withdrawal, which will end in March, follows the exit of some 1000 NATO troops in the wake of Islamists' stiff opposition to their presence in Pak-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Northwest Frontier Province, worst affected by the October 8 temblor that killed up to 80,000 people.

The phased withdrawal would begin by mid February and by end March, the remaining of the around 750 troops and 12 Chinook helicopters would leave, said Rear Admiral Michael LeFever, the Commander of Disaster Assistance Centre.

He added the US mission would leave a host of medical and road clearance equipment costing around $6 million for Pakistan army and the government to make use of.

Both US and NATO dispatched their troops and a host equipment along with Chinook helicopters, considered to be biggest in the world, to airlift injured to hospitals and rush supplies. But their involvement in relief work drew sharp protests from Pakistan's Islamist alliance Muthiahida Majlis Amal (MMA), which demanded their withdrawal.

The US official said when the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan, the US responded immediately.

Since then, US helicopters have flown over 4000 sorties and delivered over 20 million pounds of humanitarian aid, treated nearly 30,000 patients and cleared over 40,000 tones of debris.

First Published: Feb 05, 2006 16:47 IST