Interpreting the fallout: ‘US wanted permanent presence on Pakistan airbases’

Published: July 12, 2011
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Decision to cut aid is ‘punishment’ for Pakistan's refusal to grant Washington permanent presence on airbases. PHOTO: AFP

Decision to cut aid is ‘punishment’ for Pakistan's refusal to grant Washington permanent presence on airbases. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

The US decision to suspend approximately $800 million in aid to Pakistan is ‘punishment’ for Islamabad’s refusal to accept Washington’s demands seeking a permanent presence of American military personnel in all airbases of the country, according to military and intelligence officials.

The Pakistani military not only rejected the idea but also decided to expel all US military trainers in the country in retaliation for the May 2 raid on Abbottabad that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The move, officials said, annoyed the Obama administration so much that it threatened to take a series of ‘punitive’ measures, including the suspension of aid in an effort to pursue Pakistan to reverse the decision.

Washington had asked Islamabad to agree to certain conditions following the Bin Laden debacle. Among other requests, the US administration was pushing for the right to maintain a permanent presence of its military officials on all airbases in Pakistan, even after the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

“They (Americans) want us to allow a certain number of uniformed officials on all airbases of the country,” said one security official, who requested not to be named since he was not authorised to speak on the subject.

However, the official would not give the exact number of military personnel the US was seeking to maintain permanently in Pakistan.

“The demand was resisted and rejected as it was too intrusive,” said another official. “The Bin Laden episode has provided us the opportunity to overcome our shortcomings.”

The US government, for its part, confirmed that demands were made, though it did not specify what those demands were.

“When it comes to our military assistance, we’re not prepared to continue providing that at the pace that we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken,” said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, defending the US decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan.

Sources said the security establishment had now realised just how freely the United States had been able to operate inside Pakistan before the May 2 incident and was keen on reducing it.

“The CIA has been able to penetrate too deep and there are even fears that it could make inroads into the country’s security establishment if steps are not taken to scale back their activities,” commented a military official.

He confirmed that, in the wake of Abbottabad raid, the security establishment had not only expelled US military trainers but also made efforts to ‘plug loopholes in our visa policy for American visitors.’

“We will not allow the kind of freedom under which the American officials and operatives were operating in the country,” the official said.

The US State Department spokesperson confirmed the new restrictions. She recalled that on May 25, Islamabad demanded that about 100 US advisers leave Pakistani soil, effectively halting military training, adding “we obviously can’t do that in an environment where Pakistan has asked our trainers to go.”

However, Pakistani military officials insisted that the US decision to withhold military aid would not affect the ongoing campaign against militants in what appears to be deliberate attempt to play down the development.

“The army in the past as well as the present has conducted successful military operations using its own resources without any external support whatsoever,” military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

“It is unfair that the US is even holding back our reimbursements,” said a senior military official, referring to the fact that the United States government has not disbursed money from the Coalition Support Fund. He claimed the US owed Pakistan about $1 billion for services rendered during the previous fiscal year.

Yet despite the tensions, military sources say the two sides are making efforts to over their differences. US officials seem to concur with that view.

Nuland stressed Monday that “the United States continues to seek a constructive, collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan.”

India welcomes US aid freeze

India on Monday welcomed the United States’ decision to suspend $800 million worth of military aid to Pakistan.

“It is not desirable that this region had to be heavily armed by the US, which will upset the equilibrium in the region itself,” External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said, according to the Press Trust of India. “To that extent, India welcomes this step,” he said. India has generally accepted US aid for funding anti-terrorism operations in Pakistan, but has expressed concern in the past that the weapons could be turned against it.

“The US must take note of the fact that we are working in a very committed manner to normalise our relations with Pakistan,” Krishna told reporters in New Delhi.  (With additional reporting by AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Mirza
    Jul 12, 2011 - 8:40AM

    Why is Pakistan army leaking the information to the press without authorization from the Govt or ISPR? Be that as it may, the US has a rule, no work no pay. Unless Pakistan army shows some concrete results, they are not going to be paid. The silver lining is that the US hopefully is not going to hold the economic aid, just the military aid. Time to pay the piper! There are no free lunches.

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  • Jul 12, 2011 - 9:39AM

    Rulers of Pakistan, this is an opportunity for you to trust the people and shake off the US yoke. History is full of examples when nations rise in times od adversity. Please learn to capitalize on your strengths, which is your people.

    A dictator got us into a mess of aligning with the US leading to so called Jihad aginst the Soviets. A second dictator got us into this present mess. You claim to be representative of people. Listen to what the nation is saying everyday.

    A section of us takes pride in defeting one empire, now you have the nation calling for Jihad against the biggest imperialst power. No other country has killed more people in pursuit of its imperialist initerests.

    This is the time to take charge and also correct our policies within our neighbourhood, which falsely compels us to seek solace from the US – please.

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  • sam
    Jul 12, 2011 - 9:42AM

    as against a i am of taking charioty money from the US in the form of aid to protect our own people.. under no circumstances should pakistan rely on the US to clean up its mess.. if it does Pakistan will never learn how to do so herself.. for how long can we or for that matter for how long shoul we have to rely on the US?.

    its high time we started taking ownership of our mess and took direct measures towards cleaning them up…

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  • Jul 12, 2011 - 9:46AM

    Really a fine story. Well Done bahi. This is what we called journalism

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  • Pakistani
    Jul 12, 2011 - 10:06AM

    Its a just and daring stance by our government to not to allow permanent foreign troops on our land. We all Pakistani (minus those fed by CIA dollars) stand by our government.

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  • Malik
    Jul 12, 2011 - 10:06AM

    Pak Army Zindabad…… Dair ayee durast aye…..

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  • SKChadha
    Jul 12, 2011 - 10:19AM

    “The demand was resisted and rejected as it was too intrusive”

    What about the intrusion of Jihadi Terrorists from all sides of the world without passport …?? The US demand is to take care of these hon’ble guests in Pakistan for whom the country does not have stewardship… 

    The world’s focus is slowly shifting from Afghanistan to Pakistan … isn’t it?

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.Allah Almighty has clearly defined in the Holy Quran that “if Allah Almighty is with you then no one can harm you”.Always trust Allah Almighty firmly and strongly and stand on your own feet to withstand against USA.Insha Allah the Allah Almighty shall never leave you alone and no one shall harm you.Every one must keep it in the mind that USA is facing bad defeat in Afghanistan and is winning only the media war and for this purpose US officials are planning to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.This is why US officials are taking revenge from Pakistan.Never loose your hope and see how Allah Almighty helps you.

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  • Salman
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:10AM

    ” security establishment had now realised just how freely the United States had been able to operate inside Pakistan”

    Oh.. so wasn’t it the security establishment under mush and kiyani that allowed the CIA contractors (aka Black, XE, Dyncorp, others) inside the country, in the first place? Bull crap! More lies to improve their deteriorating image in the eyes of the public, and especially the sincere army officers.

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  • harkol
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:26AM

    Saw a few comments which criticized Indian statement by saying the call for ‘equilibrium’ is hypocritical in view of India’s massive arms expansion.

    I concur with that criticism to an extent. Except, India is only objecting to the infusion of foreign capital in disturbing the equilibrium. If Pakistan were to buy the weapons on its own money like India does, an equilibrium on the basis of mutual size would automatically come in. Pakistan has always competed with India by kicking way above its weight, just because Army could find one ruse or the other to get huge American fund infusion.

    Stopping that is in the interest of India and in fact even Pakistan, which badly needs get control over its rogue army. Stopping the funnel of funds and non-cooperating if Military resorts to a coup is the right way to do that.

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  • syed Imran
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:44AM

    @ Mirza

    You are behaving as a spokesman for the the Americans. ofcourse you are not a Pakistani but an Indian , however do not think you are all brains.
    Pakistan Army knows what are our National interests. Pakistan can not fight American War from its own coffers and we do not have the financial capacity to do so..Pakistan economy has already suffered $ 68 billion and we have no more to spend for the Americans.War.

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  • saqib wasim
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:46AM

    well something is better then nothing……….. kick the us out of pakistan. thats what the public is looking for

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  • Noor
    Jul 12, 2011 - 12:10PM

    For all US praisers out there!

    They thought it was a rented army of a rented country.

    Think again!

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  • faraz
    Jul 12, 2011 - 12:41PM

    It’s amazing that our state behaves as if FATA isn’t a part of Pakistan and the army is doing some favour to rest of the world by deploying troops there. US or no US, the area has to be incorporated into mainland Pakistan; the tribes can’t be left at the mercy of local and global terrorists.

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  • sam
    Jul 12, 2011 - 1:23PM

    @syed Imran
    Dont carried away by one single news / event.
    If Pakistan Army knew our National interest we wouldn be facing 60billion $$ + loss in our economy, we wouldnt ve saw GHQ and PNS attacks and stuff …. this is bull crap ..

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  • Subhash, India
    Jul 12, 2011 - 1:52PM

    @syed Imran:
    “Pakistan Army knows what are our National interests”
    I hope PAKISTAN also knows what it’s National interests are.

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  • Ba Ha
    Jul 12, 2011 - 2:00PM

    Read This Placard [also known as Play-card by local Urdu media] from the independence Day of South Sudan.

    **From Today
    Our identity is Southern and African not Arabic and Islamic
    We are not worst Arabs -but better Africans.**

    America just wants a few soldiers in a few bases. The Arabs have stolen your IDENTITY. You can always kick the soldiers out but what about the Petro-funded Mulla??

    Listen to me Kick them both out of hereRecommend

  • Mahesh Patil
    Jul 12, 2011 - 2:01PM

    @syed Imran:

    Dear Sir,
    Please read following comment from Mr.Mirza.

    @Mahesh Patil:
    Please do not make me feel more humbled. I am an ordinary Pakistani who is doing his best to empower them with education, freedom from the suppression and to a good free life, just like people of many other nations. I have always preached equality and independence from a colonial system where only the color of master’s has changed. Pakistanis are still ruled by the same cantonments that British have.
    I have been called names, foreign agent and traitor. It is difficult for some Pakistanis to understand and believe that a Pakistani Muslim can spread the message of love, equality and fairness and not hate.
    Recommended 6

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  • Mahesh Patil
    Jul 12, 2011 - 2:25PM

    Dear Sir,
    Please read Mr.Mirza’s response to one of my comments.
    @Mahesh Patil:
    Please do not make me feel more humbled. I am an ordinary Pakistani who is doing his best to empower them with education, freedom from the suppression and to a good free life, just like people of many other nations. I have always preached equality and independence from a colonial system where only the color of master’s has changed. Pakistanis are still ruled by the same cantonments that British have.
    I have been called names, foreign agent and traitor. It is difficult for some Pakistanis to understand and believe that a Pakistani Muslim can spread the message of love, equality and fairness and not hate.
    Recommended 6

    Recommend

  • mind control
    Jul 12, 2011 - 2:37PM

    @Syed Imran

    A. Pakistan Army knows what are our National interests.

    In case they have also confided the same to you, can you tell me how was sheltering OBL of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s ‘national interest’ or selling nuclear technology for that matter.

    B. Pakistan can not fight American War from its own coffers and we do not have the financial capacity to do so

    But wasn’t Pakistan Army and its Commando COAS in charge of Pakistan when Pakistan decided to fight the American War?

    C.Pakistan economy has already suffered $ 68 billion and we have no more to spend for the Americans.War.

    All this while Pakistan Army was sheltering the Haqqanis in ‘national interest’? Strange indeed.

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  • Mad Paki
    Jul 12, 2011 - 2:47PM

    Look who is talking. What about the fact that India is the biggest arm importer in the world, Mr.Krishna?

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  • syed Imran
    Jul 12, 2011 - 3:56PM

    @ Mind Control

    Why are you so disturbed. If at last we realized that US is just rubbing us to dust, endangering our existance and making us to pay for their War, So whats so wrong in getting rid of this monster

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  • Sam
    Jul 12, 2011 - 3:59PM

    in case none of u cared to notice.. THIS ISNT ABOUT INDIA VS PAKISTAN im sick of all the childish comparisons amoungst 2 yr olds screaming no im better no im better.. grow up will u all!!!!

    with regards to this piece of news “US wanted permanenet…” im sick of the whole the US wants this the US wants that.. well what the US should do is stop acting like a big bully and focus instead on its own economy..we dont want another greece now do we…

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  • Khan
    Jul 12, 2011 - 4:23PM

    @harkol:

    I wonder which movie Indians are watching that they all say the same thing that we get military equipment free of charge ? Or do you guys not that the case where we paid for dozens of F-16s in during 1990’s and after taking the money US had put sanctions on us and with held our money .. after many years they floated the idea to give wheat in return of that money instead … We either buy them with OUR money or at best on loaned money … Now if you buy a car from bank on lease … Is that in anyway a free car ??.
    What ever they reimburse is the money spent on fighting a war which they started in 1970’s .. which was anything but a bad decision by a dictator on our part resulting in hosting of up to 5 Million refugees (still around 3 Million are roaming freely) who stayed freely, got free education and established their businesses without paying any tax, created a huge burden on our weak infrastructure.
    These monsters were created by US and when they went to Afghanistan it was again the US who forced them to flee to our country.. again creating such a huge mess for us .. I wonder if its possible for such a super power to be naive to let go your enemy no 1 and spend trillions of $ each year then?
    The ‘equilibrium’ you guys are talking about either doesn’t exists or your definition of it is wrong. I would suggest having a look at a dictionary again. How is 1 : 10 an equilibrium ?.

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  • Zainab Ali
    Jul 12, 2011 - 4:23PM

    Pakistan must avoid all the possibilities of a head on collision with US. This is not desirable at all. Our establishment must realize that there is a huge difference between our capabilities and those of the US. Cooperation is necessary, but it also requires better decision makers on our side.

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  • Roflcopter
    Jul 12, 2011 - 4:54PM

    Pak army zindabad

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  • ScoobyDoo
    Jul 12, 2011 - 4:57PM

    O YOU WHO ARE RUNNING THE STATE AFFAIRS LISTEN CAREFULLY , WE( THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN) DONT WANT A SINGLE FOREIGN TROOP ON OUR LAND UNDER ANY CAPACITY NOT EVEN TRAINERS AND RESCUE WORKERS.

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  • Faisel Hafeez
    Jul 12, 2011 - 5:09PM

    Good Riddance. Pakistan should send an Official Thank You Note.

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  • Amjad
    Jul 12, 2011 - 5:28PM

    The Pakistani military alone should choose what is best in terms of guarding the nation. Pakistan Army Zindabad. We feel safe knowing you will not put anything other than the nation’s best interest in your decisions!

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  • Cautious
    Jul 12, 2011 - 5:49PM

    It’s far more likely the USA has withheld funds because of variety of factors with hiding OBL and providing sanctuary to terrorist leading the list followed by kicking out CIA and generally being a PIA — having a few “permanent” American’s stationed at each Pakistani airbase doesn’t give the USA a significant strategic or tactical advantage and I doubt they asked let alone retaliated.

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  • Jul 12, 2011 - 10:04PM

    Very interesting story, and I’d say it’s good journalism from the Pakistani point of view. From the US citizen point of view, most of us feel we spend too much money trying to protect the world from itself. There is no “imperialist” desire in the USA. I don’t think any of us want to take over your country. The general US impression is that Pakistan seems to feel it’s okay to harbor terrorist organisations. How could Bin Laden hide within a mile of a military base? Seems doubtful the authorities in the country would have no idea. If Pakistan can’t or won’t take ownership of the problem, then it will come down to agencies such as the CIA to find these terrorist organizations. If you don’t like the idea of the CIA having incentive to be in your country, then the simple solution is to be effective and honest in rooting these terrorists out of your country. The intrusive US military presence on every base was proposed because trust is now very very low. Don’t give the US incentive to focus on your country, be honest, and there will be no reason to be there. The US citizens don’t really want our forces over there either!

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  • Ali
    Jul 12, 2011 - 10:20PM

    Nothing but more lies…Amrika continues to attack Pakistan and kill it citizens..The napak army continues to lie…

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  • Khalid Rahim
    Jul 12, 2011 - 11:03PM

    In 1954 US and Pakistan signed Mutual Defense Assistace Agreement. One year back we
    had joined Baghdad Pact followed by membership in SEATO. We had been drugged by the
    famous Senator McCarthy? Two people played a prominent role in empowering Americans to
    penetrate the body and soul of Pakistan. Mohammad Ali Bogra and General Mohammad Ayub Khan.Between 1955 and 1957 the Americans tried their best to convince President Iskander Mirza to allow them to revive the Jiwani base built during the second world war and
    establish one near Peshawar. President Mirza clarified to WashingtonDC that such request will not be entertained. It was then decided that he must be removed and the country placed
    under Military rule in the same manner as many Latin American nations.Political agitations began to take place all over the country, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan was given assurance by
    higher ups in GHQ that if he went through with his long march and caused a wheel jam the
    Government will be forced to hold elections. Qayyum Khan fell for the ploy and instead saw
    himself behind bars with other political leaders on Oct 7 1958. President Mirza on advise of
    his Sandhurst colleague General Ayub Khan declared Martial law appointing him as CMLA.
    After 20 days President Mirza found himself in London and by the end of the year Pentagon
    was given the green signal to select a site near Peshawar and revive Jiwani base if they wished. In 1959 BadaBer village area was chosen to establish US Strategic Communication
    Command base headed by USAF Colonel as base commander. Only two helicopters could land here, no jetfighters or transport planes could land or take off from this base. In 1965 when US refused to replenish Pakistan with defense needs then President FM Mohammad Ayub Khan showed his unpleasentness and asked the base to be closed. Probably in 1967
    the base was handed to PAF without the strategic communication equipment. Three Army Chiefs bent very low to please their mentors, now we can wait and watch how this chief who
    stands with distinction in the hall of honor at Ft Leavenworth in Kentucky shows moral courage as late Maj Gen Iskander Mirza or the other three Generals?

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  • MK
    Jul 13, 2011 - 1:06AM

    It is reduced by $800 million, which makes about one third less. Army still be getting 2 thirds for reduced rental services.

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  • MK
    Jul 13, 2011 - 1:59AM

    @James:
    Although there is no doubt that Pakistan needs to fix her own house, but to answer your comment of “no imperialist desire”, here is a link. Wondering if US citizens approved all these interventions.
    http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/155/26024.html

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