9/11 anniversary: US and Pakistan 'frozen' in mistrust, military chiefs warn
Relations between Washington and Islamabad are "frozen" in mutual distrust over the "unauthorised" raid by US Navy Seals which killed Osama bin Laden last May, senior military and political leaders have said.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, they said that despite ten years of co-operation with America in the war on terror, in which an estimated 35,000 Pakistani civilians, 3000 soldiers and senior political leaders like former prime minister Benazir Bhutto have lost their lives, Washington has denigrated its armed forces and undermined its sovereignty.
America's decision to launch the bin Laden raid without informing Pakistan's leaders, and the killing of two motorcycle gunmen in Lahore by CIA contractor Raymond Davis last January, caused widespread anger and highlighted the need for Islamabad to review its co-operation with Washington and rein in CIA agents it regards as out of control, they said.
The comments, as the country approaches its tenth anniversary as a key US ally in the war on terror, have raised strong questions over how effectively the United States will be able to target al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan without the full support of its military and political leaders.
Pakistan further highlighted its vital role yesterday when it announced the capture in Quetta of senior al-Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauritania, who had been picked by Osama bin Laden to plot attacks in America, Europe and Australia.
"There's anti-US feeling prevailing in the country. If we are seen to be moving against the people at the behest of a foreign power it would be a disaster," said one senior military chief.
"They disregard the sovereignty of the country. There's the feeling of the troops, it puts pressure on these organisations. There's a concern to reassure the people of Pakistan that these abuses can't happen again. Any repeat would intensify the feelings against the US. It doesn't help."
Another senior officer, Major-General Athar Abbas, spokesman for Pakistan's armed forces, said the United States had not kept to an understanding to defer to its judgment on waging the war on terror within Pakistan, and had sought to push Islamabad into launching offensives against Taliban strongholds despite its fears that they would cause civilian casualties and drive tribesmen into supporting the militants.
The Pakistan's army had waged successful operations against militants in South Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur, Orakzai, and Mohmand. The Taliban had not retaken any of their former strongholds, but the United States had still put Islamabad under pressure to launch premature attacks in North Waziristan and other areas.
"We isolated the Taliban in the area, bribed some, pushed other groups, so they were isolated. [But] there was impatience to why are we were taking so long," he said.
Washington has long been frustrated by Pakistan's reluctance to move against the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction which launches raids on Nato forces in Afghanistan from its safe haven in North Waziristan.
The "disregard" of Pakistan's concerns had highlighted the need for a written agreement to limit the "footprint" of the CIA in Pakistan.
"It's important for intelligence agencies to have terms of engagement which are defined in writing so there's no element of confusion or misinterpretation from the respective sides.," General Abbas said.
"It should be known as to the number [of agents], the footprint should be formalised. We do understand there are different frames of reference. The other side will see the problem through their prism, but this is our land, people and problem and we have to sort it out," he said.
Tariq Azeem, a senior member of Pakistan's Senate and a minister under former president General Musharraf, said America's disregard for public opinion against drone attacks, and failure to inform its leaders about the Osama bin Laden raid, had damaged relations and tarnished its image.
"There's little doubt that Pakistan feels very strongly that our best may not be good enough for you, but we've given our best. We've lost 3,600 soldiers, including a three star general, 35,000 civilians. Hardly a day goes by when Pakistan is not fighting. If a single Nato soldier dies in Afghanistan people talk about the sacrifice, but how come Pakistani blood is not seen as important?" he said.