Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Questions on a Vacillating Relation


Questions on a Vacillating Relation

The tense relations between the two strategic allies in war against terrorism are getting more gravity following questions on Osama Bin Laden's death near a military academy in Abbottabad. Before the blowing news of US forces' operation to capture or kill Al-Qaeda head was announced by US president Obama, analysts doubted if the process succeeded with the distrust dominating relations between partners.

Indications suggested that the regional and international stakeholders that have been involved in the Post-Taliban process in Afghanistan are not in a mood to cooperatively work to accomplish the exhausting mission here. Pakistan, the most effective external party in the Afghan mission is being criticized by the Afghan government and international community, facing a blow up after Osama's hiding in Pakistan was revealed last week. Prior to the occurrence, it had already demonstrated its severe discontent with the US drone strikes targeting militants in the Pakistani land. The Pakistani military, which holds real power over matters of national security in Pakistan, is now insisting for the first time that Washington must observe strict limits on both the use of drone strikes and on the number of US military and intelligence personnel and contractors in the country.

As the most recent signal of enormity of relations between the two countries, Pakistan's Chief of Army staff General Ashfaq Keyani conveyed his angry message through a statement by his press office and in a closed meeting with Pakistani reporters. The statement by the army's press office said, "Any similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States." General Kayani had decided that the number of American troops in Pakistan was to be reduced "to the minimum essential," the statement said. He did not specify the exact number of American troops asked to leave Pakistan, and it was not clear that the level was below what Pakistan had previously demanded after a C.I.A. contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis in January.

Then, the Americans were told that the number of Special Operations soldiers involved in a training program would have to be reduced to 39 from 120, that C.I.A. contractors would no longer be allowed to stay in Pakistan, and that other American officials who appeared to be working for the C.I.A., but whose jobs were not clearly defined, would have to leave, too. Calling the American raid a "misadventure," General Kayani told the Pakistani reporters that another, similar, raid would be responded to swiftly, a promise that seemed intended to tell the Pakistani public that the army was indeed capable of stopping the Americans' trying to capture other senior figures from Al-Qaeda.

Reports said General Kayani's blunt warnings came after he met with his top commanders at their monthly conference at army headquarters in Rawalpindi, a gathering of the top 11 generals. The meeting was devoted to the consequences of the raid, which has severely embarrassed the Pakistani military, leaving the nation's most prestigious institution looking poorly prepared and distrusted by its most important ally. The official statement acknowledged "shortcomings" in developing intelligence on the presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan, a reference to the fact that the Qaeda leader was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad.

It comes after reports quoted Pakistani officials Saturday May 07, 2011 as saying that "the Obama administration has demanded the identities of some of their top intelligence operatives as the United States tries to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden or his agents in the years before the raid that led to his death early Monday morning in Pakistan." On the other hand, a top Pentagon official said Thursday that Obama administration officials "do not have any definitive evidence at this point" that Pakistan knew that Osama bin Laden was living in a compound in a garrison city only 35 miles from Islamabad, but she said that Pakistan would have to work hard to rebuild relations with the United States Congress.

In the public comments by a Pentagon official on the raid and its aftermath, Michele A. Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said that she had "a very candid conversation" with top Pakistani military officials at the Pentagon on last Monday during a previously scheduled meeting She said she had urged them to take clear steps to show Congress that they were committed to fighting terrorism and working with the United States. After Bin Laden's death was announced, and it became clear that he had been living in a large compound near a military academy for some time, perhaps years, angry members of Congress who are in charge of the billions of dollars in American military aid that flows to Pakistan have issued furious assessments of the Pakistani Army as either incompetent or duplicitous. Continuing aid is certain to come under sharp scrutiny.

Following international pressures on the Pakistani government to answer for Osama's hiding near the capital Islamabad and in vicinity to the country's most well-known military training camp, US congressmen discussed whether to revise the billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan. The idea was raised because the US officials believed Pakistan had not done enough to restrain extremism. The US administration has said they didn't share the intelligence with the Pakistani side and the operation to capture Al-Qaeda head inside Pakistan. Subsequent to previous series of tense relations between the two strategic partners, the analysts believed that the declining cooperation and increasing distrust would seriously damage cooperation on the war against terrorism. It had led to the Pakistani military's demand on the United States to curb drone strikes and reduce the number of US spies operating in Pakistan, a sign of clearly edgy relations between the two allies.

Prior to the legendary operation against the September 11 Mastermind, in a blunt statement, the US military's top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan's spy agency of having links with militants targeting troops in Afghanistan. He had said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a "long-standing relationship" with a militant group run by Afghan insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani. However, afraid of the possible damage of cooperation between the two countries' intelligence agencies and the diplomatic ties, Mullen said U.S. and Pakistani leaders agree they cannot afford to let security ties unravel, even as he acknowledged persistent strains. The statement reveals the truth that Pakistan's role in fight against terrorism remains substantial despite the shortcomings seen earlier. The country's restive areas host groups of multinational terrorists, including Al-Qaeda In a new statement, the US ambassador in Kabul, asserted that the hotbed of terrorism and Al-Qaeda strongholds lie beyond Afghan borders.

Despite Pakistan's partnership with the US, there are grave shortcomings in the process that need to be remedied immediately. Osama Bin Laden's presence in Abbotabad has raised further international criticisms against the country and President Zardari's government. With militancy increasing in the region, a more precise scrutiny of the situation is required. US's call for further determined stance against the scourge of terrorism reveals the fact that every party in the war against terror owns a specific position in the process. They need to carry on struggles to collaboratively accomplish the mission. The world stands against terrorism and Pakistan should remain a close part of the process. Pakistani officials have frequently iterated the country's vital role in Afghanistan process, a substantial fact acknowledged by Afghan government and the international community. However, recent tensions in the US-Pakistani relations will severely affect the process in Afghanistan.

Nasrudding hemati is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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