Islamabad/Ottawa, Sep 3 (IANS) Canada has offered to station troops in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan in a possible development of far-reaching diplomatic and military significance for the region and the fight against terrorism.
The Canadian offer could be part of the US-NATO effort to secure the volatile Pakistan-Afghan border. While foreign troops are stationed in Afghanistan, officially, there are none in Pakistan.
There has been no word in Islamabad, but Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, who is on a visit to Pakistan, was quoted in the Canadian media Saturday as saying that Canadian soldiers could be deployed along the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan 'to help protect the forces from attacks'.
O'Connor, speaking on Friday in Islamabad after a trip to Afghanistan, urged his Pakistani interlocutors to redouble efforts to prevent attacks on Canadians in southern Afghanistan, The Globe and Mail newspaper reported.
'Among other things, I suggested that some Pakistani officers be stationed with our troops in Kandahar and (that) Canadian troops be stationed on the Pakistan side,' O'Connor said in an interview with a Pakistani news agency, cited by The Globe and Mail and Radio Canada.
The News International newspaper carried reports from the two newspapers without offering any comment.
'This will assist in information gathering and intelligence sharing on both sides of the border,' he added.
Reports in Western media have indicated that the US has stationed 30,000 troops of its 'special units' in Pakistan, ostensibly to guard the military base facilities that it has been availing since 2001.
Canada has some 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, most of them based in Kandahar. Twenty-seven Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.
The US has 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and NATO contingent, of which Canada is a part, forms the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been pleading for an expanded role for the ISAF, which has been stalled by reluctance of some of the NATO nations to commit more troops for fear of protests at home. The Tony Blair government in Britain has been facing criticism for the increasing casualties among British troops in Afghanistan.