When push comes to shove

Published: October 24, 2010
File photo shows US and Isaf troops on the Pak-Afghan border. PHOTO: AFP

File photo shows US and Isaf troops on the Pak-Afghan border. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: The US is pushing to expand a secret CIA effort to help Pakistan target militants near the Afghan border, according to senior officials, as the White House seeks new ways to prod Islamabad into more aggressive action against groups allied with al Qaeda, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The push comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured over US impatience with the slow pace of Pakistani strikes against militants who routinely attack US-led troops in Afghanistan. US President Barack Obama has said he will begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July, increasing the urgency to show progress in the nine-year war against the Taliban.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington asked Islamabad in recent weeks to allow additional Central Intelligence Agency officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country as part of Washington’s efforts to intensify pressure on militants.

The requests have so far been rebuffed by Islamabad, which remains extremely wary of allowing a larger US ground presence in the country, illustrating the precarious nature of relations between Washington and its wartime ally.

The number of CIA personnel in the country has grown substantially in recent years. The exact number is highly classified. The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA drone programme that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes. The additional officers could help Pakistani forces reach targets drones cannot.

There are currently about 900 US military personnel in Pakistan, 600 of which are providing flood relief and 150 of which are assigned to the training mission.

A senior Pakistani official said relations with the CIA remain strong but Islamabad continues to oppose a large increase in the number of American personnel on the ground.

The Obama administration has been putting pressure on Islamabad in recent weeks to attack militants after months of publicly praising Pakistani efforts. The CIA has intensified drone strikes in the country, and the military in Afghanistan has carried out cross-border helicopter raids, underlining US doubts Islamabad can be relied upon to be more aggressive. Officials have even said they were going to stop asking for Pakistani help with the US’s most difficult adversary in the region, the north Waziristan-based Haqqani network, because it was unproductive.

When senior officials visited Washington this week, Obama administration officials signaled they are willing to push for a long-term military aid package. But they have also made it clear to Pakistani officials they expect tangible results, threatening that current cash payments to the country could be reduced if things don’t improve in tribal areas such as north Waziristan.

The current efforts to expand CIA presence are meant to expand intelligence collection and facilitate more aggressive Pakistani-led actions on the ground. Some US officials, however, remain hopeful that Islamabad will allow a greater covert presence that could include CIA paramilitary forces.

Given Pakistan’s objections to US ground troops, using more CIA paramilitary forces could be a “viable option”, said a government official. “That gives them (Pakistanis) a little bit of cover,” the official added.

US officials said a stronger US-Pakistan intelligence partnership would not be a substitute for closer working relationship with the military’s special operations forces.

Much of the on-ground intelligence in Pakistan is gathered by the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Some US officials believe the country wants the US to remain dependent on the ISI for that intelligence.

US military forces on the ground remain a red line for Islamabad. A senior government official said if the public became aware of US military forces conducting combat operations on their territory, it would wipe out popular support for fighting the militants in the tribal areas.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Aamir
    Oct 23, 2010 - 3:00PM

    I wonder why americans needs to increase its CIA numbers when our agencies are already working for them. May be they are not competent enough to do the job as american want. Pitty on them. Already our army has become hostage to america, killing our own civilians to get some dollars from US for their own survival. Our army rule us when they find that they can get something out of it for its own survival and give back the country to the corrupt politicians in order to have a reason to rule it again. Countries needs army to protect itself from other countries but but in our case our army needs a country to rule. Time is not far when there will be some improvement in economy and these dogs of war will come again to eat us. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Oct 23, 2010 - 3:15PM

    Push all American “CIA presence” out of Pakistan = half your problems solved. Have I said anything illogical?Recommend

  • Reply to anonymous
    Oct 23, 2010 - 3:40PM

    All americans and “CIA presence” also includes our top brass (top govt officials, politicians, agencies and armed forces personnels) as well. Who will get rid of them. We allow americans to use our soil for the interests of Strategic Alliances Members. They are everywhere around us. Get rid of them first.Recommend

  • Ben
    Oct 23, 2010 - 3:50PM

    Yes, the Yankees are coming….And at what price? A paltry sum of $ 2 billion which Pakistani PM says Pakistan has already spent on the war. Read more at: link textRecommend

  • A Suhail
    Oct 23, 2010 - 4:31PM

    Push Al-Quaida and it’s affilites out and other half of our problems will be solved. Now that’s logical, right?Recommend

  • Ahsanullah Mehsud
    Oct 23, 2010 - 5:02PM

    I think our ruler must learn the word “NO”. Which is spitted on someone face, if demands of the person sitting on the opposite side of the table are against ones interest.Particularly a leader should have the courage to utter it. Recommend

  • Oct 23, 2010 - 6:32PM

    Ok US we welcome you but please send only female agents. in fact send lots of them! If possible send Angelina jolie as spy as was in Salt and on same type of mission!Recommend

  • Sulaman khan
    Oct 23, 2010 - 7:03PM

    USA ! we know whats you want and what are your amiss . please don`t make any arguments. Recommend

  • ADE
    Oct 23, 2010 - 7:55PM

    @A Suhail….and what about Blackwater? Recent reports show that they are indeed a suspicious and troubling lot. I’m sure we have plenty of them too and they’re not in Pakistan to make merryRecommend

  • Ali
    Oct 23, 2010 - 8:32PM

    Pakistan will never stabilize unless the US warmongers are kicked out. The war is spreading into Pakistan similar to US escalation in Indo-China in the 70’s. The hapless people of Pakistan are paying the price for US delusional Islamophobic wars and quest for global hegemony. Nothing good is in store for Pakistan for a cheap price of $2 billion worthless aid, most of which will be siphoned off by corrupt politicians and generals. The US and Zionist agenda is the total destabilization of Pakistan and endless wars in the region. The only solution is to stay clear of US and look after strategic national interests.Recommend

  • Reply to Ali
    Oct 24, 2010 - 12:51AM

    Ali I fully agree with your comments but the question is where have all the leaders gone. We must realize that we are a failed state with no direction to go. Until and unless few great men rescue us from the ills of all the mess facing eye to eye with powerfull personalties which have hijacked the country since inception, future of this country is doomed.We already have nothing to offer to our next generation except dogs of war looming around them.Recommend

  • jigrota
    Oct 24, 2010 - 12:53AM

    US hasn’t reimbursed the amount they owe us for past four years of war on terror and whatever we have lost in the while because of their presence in Afghanistan.This amount ($2 Billion) they have agreed to now is coming in 2012, our deficit is going to multiply in next two years as per senior analysts and the amount wouldn’t be suffice by then. All this being done at the cost of increasing CIA’s presence in Pakistan.

    The flood aid money they promised is coming through Kerry Luger Bill which is grossly shameful keeping in view that fulfills only 20% of the rehabilitation costs.
    US surely lost its case among Pakistani people and then they wonder ‘why they hate us’.

    If they cant pay us they should just leave Afghanistan proly by latest.Recommend

  • samina
    Oct 25, 2010 - 10:20AM

    we cannot blame the americians for our own deficiencies if we had been true to our country no one would dare to use us as we are being used today Recommend

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