Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Bangladesh will not send forces to Afghanistan even if the US shows up with a formal request for troops.

The government will argue that the national sentiment is against sending troops to Afghanistan, The Daily Star, a local newspaper, reported quoting the government and ruling party sources.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already said her government did not receive any formal proposal from the US about sending troops. “So there is no question of sending troops,” she told her party’s advisory council members during a meeting on Saturday.

All Awami League advisers urged Hasina, president of Awami League, not to send troops considering the public sentiment, the newspaper said.

The advisers said even if the formal proposal comes, the government should not make any decision to send troops to a SAARC country as it would go against the sentiment of more than 90 percent Bangladeshis.

“We are a developing nation, not a developed one. We have no capacity to fight battles at this moment. We can send troops only for UN peacekeeping, not for fighting battles,” an adviser who attended the Saturday meeting at the Gono Bhaban quoted Hasina as saying.

Sources in the government told the newspaper that the government in principle has decided not to consider the US request for sending troops to Afghanistan but due to technical reasons the government is reluctant to make the decision public.

Bangladesh did not agree to send troops to Iraq during the first Gulf War after the US requested for forces.

The main opposition BNP, its allies, left-leaning parties, civil society members and experts have already asked the government not to send troops to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry on Sunday said the United States has sought Bangladesh’s engagement in restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In a statement, it said the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to recent media reports on the meeting between Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Ambassador Richard C Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in New York on September 23.

It said, “The ministry would like to clarify that during the meeting Bangladesh’s engagement was sought for the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan; and to that effect Bangladesh was requested to provide economic and development assistance, render training facilities to Afghan security and law enforcement agencies.

“The foreign minister told Holbrooke that Bangladesh believes in peace and it will do whatever it can to restore peace in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan.”

She also indicated that Bangladesh would look into scopes for providing various Afghan entities with training facilities, it added.

The foreign ministry statement said Bangladesh has already offered assistance in education and health sectors of the SAARC country.

BBN/SI/AD-04Oct10-12:14 am (BST)