Pakistan confirmed Tuesday that it has downsized U.S. military personnel helping train its forces to fight against Islamist militants in tribal areas, the Associated Press reports.
"We have reassessed our requirements and sent 90 people home," a senior Pakistani military official said. Before the announcement, an estimated 125 trainers were working in the country - which means that two-thirds of U.S. trainers in Pakistan have left.
Pakistan intends to force further reductions.
"Where essential elements are required we are keeping them. In very critical areas of maintenance and technical capability, where we do not have the qualified people, then we are keeping them," the Pakistani official said. "But otherwise they are being asked to leave."
The Americans sent home had been working with a Pakistani paramilitary force known as the Frontier Corps, which is Pakistan's front line against militants in the country's tribal areas along the Afghan border. They were teaching the Pakistanis how to train their own personnel.
The United States also confirmed that it is reducing the number of its military personnel in Pakistan.
Since the United States acted unilaterally in a raid which killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, Pakistan has cut off communication with its CIA contacts and voiced its disapproval with the U.S. action, claiming that the operation violated its sovereignty.
In what seemed to be a positive step forward, the two countries announced last week the formation of a joint counterterrorism team to take out high value terrorist targets. The Pakistani military's announcement that it has sent U.S. personnel home indicates that joint counterterrorism force might be nominal.
The bin Laden raid isn't the only factor placing strain on U.S.-Pakistani relations this year.
Even before bin Laden's death, in January 2010, a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistani men he claimed attempted to rob him in Lahore. Raymond Davis was later acquitted by a Pakistani court after the families of the killed men were allegedly awarded 'blood money.' U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, which have sometimes inadvertently killed civilians, have also been a continual source of conflict between the two countries.
Last week, a key witness in a Chicago terrorism trial linked Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Pakistan has since denied any ISI involvement in the attacks.