US officials have admitted that after the November 24 border intrusion by Nato forces, a drone strike in the tribal areas was cancelled when miffed Pakistan was asked but refused permission for it, American newspaper The Washington Post has reported.
After the border clash, the officials said, the Obama administration had decided to suspend its regular and hugely unpopular drone campaign inside Pakistan to avoid further unsettling relations. There was a 55-day hiatus.
Then, early this month, in a rare display of deference, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informed the Pakistani government that it planned a drone strike against a terrorist target in the North Waziristan tribal region and asked Islamabad’s permission. When Pakistan declined, the strike was cancelled, officials said.
However, barely a week later when the US wanted to launch another drone strike in North Waziristan, officials said that Pakistan was notified in advance but permission was not sought. Another drone strike followed after two days.
Thanks, but no thanks: Pakistan tells Grossman
The paper also reports that Marc Grossman, the Obama administration’s top diplomat in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan, had asked to visit Islamabad during his current trip to the region, but Pakistani officials responded that it was not convenient.
Grossman is due to visit regional capitals Ankara, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Kabul this week in what is being termed the US’ new push to engage the Taliban.
The move by Pakistani officials seems to imply that, in the aftermath of the November killings of Pakistani soldiers by Nato forces, the country is changing its attitude on US overtures towards the Taliban. But security officials and analysts who spoke to The Washington Postsaid that there were no significant changes in bilateral counterterrorism cooperation.
The ‘fundamentals’ of mutual interest in destroying al Qaeda and safely managing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal have not changed, said a senior Obama administration official, who, like several sources in this article, discussed sensitive diplomatic matters on condition of anonymity. But, he said, the two countries are trying to find what he called ‘a new normal’ — somewhere between the strategic alliance that US President Obama once proffered in exchange for Pakistan severing its ties with militants, and a more businesslike arrangement with few illusions.
“It will be much more realpolitik,” another US official said. “It’s getting away
from the grandiose vision of what could be to focusing on what is.”
Pakistan seeks change
However, a senior Pakistani military official told the paper that the country wants some ‘significant changes’ in the way Pakistan and the US do business. Speaking about past incidents of bilateral intelligence and military cooperation in pursuit of Pakistan-based al Qaeda and Taliban militants, he said, “We’ve had some glorious times.” But he spoke emotionally about the deaths of the 24 soldiers in November and said the incident will not be forgotten soon.
The same, he said, is true of what he called other
‘insults’ in 2011, including the Raymond Davis killings, the May 2 Abbottabad raid and then US chairman of joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement that the Haqqani group
was a ‘veritable’ arm of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2012.