Pakistani troops to guard Saudi borders against Houthi attacks

Pakistan will send combat troops to protect Saudi Arabia’s southern borders from attacks by Houthis in Yemen, reported Middle East Eye citing senior security sources.

The Pakistani brigade will only be deployed inside the southern borders of the kingdom. "It will not be used beyond Saudi borders," an insider told the Gulf-based newspaper.

The move follows a visit by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa to Saudi Arabia in December last year. The army chief had been on a three-day visit to the kingdom where he met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

"COAS reiterated Pakistan's commitment to the security and protection of the Holy Mosques and also the territorial integrity of the kingdom," Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement.

"Later, General Qamar Javed Bajwa met chief of general staff of Saudi Forces, General Abdul Rehman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, to discuss military to military relations, defence cooperation and regional security situation.

"Both leaders agreed to boost military cooperation and collaboration."

Two years ago the parliament rejected a request by the King Salman for Islamabad to join a "Sunni" coalition to fight the Houthis. Lawmakers feared such a coalition would spark sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Relations are tense between Saudi Arabia and Yemen who have been fighting a deadly war for the last two years which has killed more than 10,000 people in Yemen, injured over 40,000.

The war was launched by Saudi Arabia and its Arab coalition allies after the Houthis overran Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, and the southern port of Aden and ousted the Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi.

Last year, Pakistan initially found itself in the crosshairs of Middle Eastern politics as Saudi Arabia named it as part of its newly formed military alliance of Muslim countries meant to combat terrorism, without first getting its consent.

However, after initial ambiguity, the government had confirmed its participation in the alliance, but said that the scope of its participation would be defined after Riyadh shared the details of the coalition it was assembling.

The coalition was envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.

The Saudi government had surprised many countries by announcing that it had forged a coalition for coordinating and supporting military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

Iran, Saudi Arabia's archrival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen.

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