The United States is ready to discuss the new framework for relations with Pakistan, said American officials after Parliament unanimously approved new guidelines on relations with the United States on Thursday in a key step towards repairing troubled ties.
However, chances that Washington will accept a demand for an immediate halt to drone strikes inside the country’s tribal belt are slim.
Even though the US is willing to address Pakistan’s concerns on certain issues, it is highly unlikely that the Obama administration would revisit its CIA-piloted drone campaign in the tribal regions, an American diplomat, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune.
“The US can accommodate Pakistan’s concerns by reviewing the mechanism under which the drones operate but it is not possible at this stage that the entire campaign is brought to a halt,” he maintained.
The Obama administration considers the CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan as a vital tool to dismantle the ability of al Qaeda and its affiliates to target US interests. But the policy has stoked widespread anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and the civilian leadership sees it as counter-productive to its anti-terror efforts, even though there is suspicion that Islamabad might have a secret understanding with Washington on the use of drones.
Meanwhile, the US’ official stance is a neutral one at the moment.
“We have seen that the joint session of the Pakistani parliament has approved the final recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. We respect the seriousness with which this review has been conducted,” said a US embassy spokesperson Mark Stroh.
Stroh said the US would want to reengage with Pakistan based on the new terms that seek to redefine the relationship between the two.
“We look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with the Government of Pakistan,” he added.
An American diplomat, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the US is likely to offer a public apology over the Nato airstrike in Mohmand that killed at least two dozen soldiers in November last year.
Resumption of Nato routes
The US now awaits the reopening of vital land routes for Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan. The revised policy terms have not explicitly addressed the issue of Nato supplies except a vague reference that Pakistan territory, or its airspace, shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.
Since US coalition forces in Afghanistan do not use Pakistani land routes for the supply of weapons and other ammunition, it should not be a difficult decision for the government to lift the almost five-month blockade, said the diplomat.
Nato used Pakistani routes to transport fuel and other supplies only while all munitions, whether small arms ammunition, artillery shells, or missiles, are transported by air.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.