In a major policy shift, Pakistan will deploy troops in Saudi Arabia under an existing bilateral security cooperation agreement with its close ally which is involved in a civil war in neighbouring Yemen.
Pakistan Army announced the decision to send troops on a “training and advise mission” to Saudi Arabia after a meeting between Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Saudi ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
“In continuation of ongoing Pak-Saudi bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on training and advise mission. These or troops already there will not be employed outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Pakistan Army said in a brief statement.
It also said the army “maintains bilateral security cooperation with many other Gulf/regional countries”.
The move comes three years after Pakistan decided against sending soldiers to join the Saudi-led military intervention in strife-torn Yemen.
Already around 1,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Islamabad, in various advisory and training roles, the Dawn newspaper quoted officials as saying.
There was no official word on the number of additional troops being sent to kingdom but the paper quoted “multiple sources” hinting that it might be the size of a composite brigade.
It also quoted army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor that the new deployment would be much lesser than a division, and that he would give details later.