No US trainers in Pakistan: Pentagon

Washington: The Pentagon on Thursday said there are no American trainers in Pakistan, and clarified that it was two liaison officers, who had returned to Peshawar for coordination purposes, after being removed following a deadly cross-border NATO raid.

"There are no US trainers in Pakistan," Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt, John Kirby, told reporters at a news conference.

Earlier in the day, the Pakistani military denied claims that a group of American trainers had returned to the country several months after their departure following the NATO air strike that had killed 24 soldiers.

An unnamed US official had been quoted by the media as saying that nearly 10 military trainers were back in Pakistan as a sign of a thaw in the bilateral relationship.

The official said US special forces soldiers had been sent to a training site near Peshawar, where they will instruct trainers from Pakistan`s Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency warfare.

Pakistan had sought the withdrawal of US trainers after the NATO air strike hit two of its border posts in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan in November.

"What has happened in just the last week or so has been the return of a couple liaison officers from Regional Command-East. They`re at the Bagram in eastern Afghanistan.

"A couple of liaison officers have returned to the area around Peshawar to coordinate and continue to liaise with the 11th Corps headquarters there of the Pakistani military," Kirby said.

The 11th Corps is chief command of Pakistan military. He said the two liaison officers who were removed from their posting in Peshawar right after the November incident.

"And then they have now returned," he said and termed it as a significant development.

"I mean, it`s significant in that, as we`ve been talking about all along, that the tactical and operational coordination between the ISAF and Pakistani military is getting better, in fits and starts to be sure, but it is getting better.

"This is another example of how that coordination is going to continue to improve," he said.

"It is the same number of liaison officers we had before, it`s just that now they`re back and the whole purpose is to increase and improve communications along that whole border," he told reporters during a Pentagon news conference.

Kirby said this is part of a quid pro quo or negotiation process with Pakistan. "It has been something that obviously we were interested in renewing and this is being done, and I might add, at the Pakistanis` request. I mean, they requested that these two liaison officers come back," he said.

However, no trainers are being sent right now, he clarified. "The small number of trainers that were there were at the Pakistanis` request and invitation for a requirement they believe they needed to fill. They have not determined that that requirement exists anymore so there are no trainers," he said.

Responding to a question, Kirby said there has not been any movement on the reopening of the ground lines of communication which were closed after the NATO raid.