The United States has sent a handful of military trainers back into Pakistan in a sign the two nations may be able to achieve some low-level cooperation against militants despite a string of confrontations that have left Washington’s relations with Islamabad in crisis.
Fewer than 10 U.S. special operations soldiers have been sent to a training site near the border city of Peshawar, where they will instruct trainers from Pakistan’s Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency warfare, a U.S. official said.
The number of American military instructors in Pakistan dropped to zero after U.S. aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in late November. NATO labeled the border incident an accident but it enraged Pakistanis and sent already tense ties with the United States into a tailspin.
“I wouldn’t call this a watershed moment (but) it’s not insignificant that this is happening,” the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
The picture is less encouraging on cooperation between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence, which several American officials said remained dire as Pakistani officials resist easing restrictions on issuing visas to U.S. intelligence personnel.
In retaliation for the border deaths, Pakistan also shut down ground supply routes crucial for keeping U.S. and NATO soldiers equipped in neighboring Afghanistan, and clamped down on U.S. military personnel operating in Pakistan.
“At a strategic level, the relationship is still at a very rough place,” the official said.
“There’s a lot more we want to do to improve it, but (the trainers’ return) is an important sign that at least in some areas we’re getting a healthy sense of normalcy.”
Read More: Reuters