‘US to limit counter-terror cooperation with Pak’

Last Updated: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 11:49

New York: After a year of deteriorating relations between US and Pakistan, American officials are gearing up for a "limited" counter-terrorism alliance with
Islamabad that will include restricted drone strikes against militants and a reduced aid, a media report reported on Monday.

"With the US facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counter-terrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan," a newspaper reported quoting American and Pakistani officials.

Under this limited alliance, America will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and dish out more to move supplies
through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan.

US aid to Pakistan will also see sharp reductions, the officials said.

"We`ve closed the chapter on the post-9/11 period," the newspaper quoted a senior US official as saying.

"Pakistan has told us very clearly that they are re-evaluating the entire relationship."

While the relationship will endure in some form, American officials said the contours will not be clear until Pakistan completes its wide-ranging review in the coming weeks.

"We feel like the US treats Pakistan like a rainy-day girlfriend," opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q`s secretary general Mushahid Hussain said, summing up the anger many Pakistanis harbour against America.

From working on a sweeping strategic ties that Richard Holbrooke, President Obama`s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan had championed before his death a year ago, officials from both countries will most likely be working on a much narrower set of agreements on core priorities.

These would be countering terrorists, stabilising Afghanistan and ensuring the safety of Pakistan`s arsenal of more than 100 nuclear weapons. Pakistan will want that the new contours spelled out in writing and agreed to in advance.

Deterioration in American and Pakistani relations began when a CIA security contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January. The relationship fell to a new low when US Navy Seals stormed unannounced into Pakistan`s Abbottabad
town and killed al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in May.

Then in November, over two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in a fatal airstrike by NATO on its border posts.

The airstrike dealt "the most serious blow to reconciliation talks" between the two nations.

"It`s not happening," said Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, a former interior minister while a western diplomat put it more bluntly: "It`s a fairly gloomy picture."

The NYT quoted an American official as saying "both countries recognize the benefits of partnering against common threats, but those must be balanced against national interests as well. The balancing is a continuous process."

There will likely be a series of step-by-step agreements on military cooperation, intelligence sharing and counterterrorism operations, including revamped "kill boxes," the term used for flight zones over Pakistan’s largely ungoverned borderlands where drones will be allowed to hunt a shrinking number of al Qaeda leaders and other militants.

According to the newspaper, some Pakistani officers openly talk about shooting down any American drones that violate Pakistani sovereignty. "Nothing is happening on counterterrorism right now," said a senior Pakistani security official.

"It will never go back to the way it was." Officials from Pakistan and the US also anticipate that there will be steep reductions in American security aid, including the continued suspension of more than a billion dollars in military assistance and equipment, frozen since the American raid that killed bin Laden.

Any new security framework will also require increased transit fees for the thousands of trucks that supply NATO troops in Afghanistan, a bill that allied officials say could run into the tens of millions of dollars.

The number of American military officers, enlisted troops and contractors in Pakistan has dropped to about 100, from about 400 more than a year ago.

Pakistan is also restricting visas to dozens of other embassy personnel, from spies to aid workers.

The newspaper said some US, Western and Pakistani officials "sought to put the best face on a worsening situation".

As Pakistan readies to take a seat on the UN Security Council for two years beginning next week, these officials argued that "too much was at stake to rupture" ties completely.

The report said the Obama administration is desperately trying to preserve the critical pieces of the relationship, with General Dempsey asking the Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in a phone call on Wednesday if the
relationship could be repaired.

"General Kayani said that he thought it could, but that Pakistan needed some space," an official told the paper.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 11:48

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