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02:47 PM, March 14, 2017
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Pakistan to deploy army brigade in Saudi Arabia

Pakistan is in discussions with Saudi Arabia to send combat troops to defend the kingdom amid growing concern over threats from ISIL militants and Houthi rebels.

Islamabad and Saudi Arabia have long had a close military and security relationship, with troops from Pakistan's large and combat-hardened army regularly deployed for training Saudi soldiers.

There are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services at any one time, The National reported today.

Plans are under way to dispatch a brigade-sized deployment following a request from Riyadh, which requires the troops as an emergency response force. A brigade is usually made up of between 1,500 and 3,500 troops.

The brigade will be based in southern Saudi Arabia and will be deployed inside its borders to thwart possible attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Pakistani combat troops were sent after the 1979 attack on the Grand Mosque complex in Mecca by a proto-Al Qaeda extremist group and the Iranian revolution of the same year.

A senior Pakistani military official stressed that troops would "not go across the border" with Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition, of which the UAE is part, against the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement.

Instead, the official said troops would be kept on standby in case of any major internal security threat or terrorist incident.

The deployment is still at the planning stage and it follows a visit by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani chief of army staff (COAS), to Saudi Arabia on a three-day official visit in December last year.

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