Pakistan has demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold CIA drone strikes aimed at militants in the country’s northwest, a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies, The New York Times reported late Monday.
The demand that the US scale back its presence is the immediate fallout of the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond Davis, a CIA security officer who killed two men in broad daylight in January, Pakistani and American officials said in interviews.
In all, about 335 American personnel — CIA officers and contractors and Special Operations forces — were being asked to leave the country, said a Pakistani official closely involved in the decision. The cuts threatened to badly hamper American efforts — either through drone strikes or Pakistani military training — to combat militants who use Pakistan as a base to fight American forces in Afghanistan and plot terrorist attacks abroad.
The reductions were personally demanded by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, according to Pakistani and American officials.
The scale of the Pakistani demands emerged as Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) met in Washington on Monday with the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta.
CIA spokesman George Little said that the two spy chiefs had held “productive” meetings and that the relationship between the two services “remains on solid footing.”
“The United States and Pakistan share a wide range of mutual interests,” Little said, “and today’s exchange emphasised the need to continue to work closely together, including on our common fight against terrorist networks that threaten both countries.”
The meetings were part of an effort to repair the already tentative and distrustful relations between the spy agencies that plunged to a new low as a result of the Davis episode, which further exposed where Pakistani and American interests diverge as the endgame in Afghanistan draws closer.
The Pakistan army firmly believes that Washington’s real aim in Pakistan is to neutralize the nation’s prized nuclear arsenal, said the Pakistani official. An American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said without elaborating that the Pakistanis had asked “for more visibility into some things” — presumably the nature of CIA covert operations in the country — “and that request is being talked about.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ