Pak-US tensions


The latest review of the US strategy in Afghanistan lavishes praise on Pakistan for progress made against the extremists safe havens at extraordinary human cost. Exchange of visits by President Obama and President Zardari is also on the cards next year. Despite all this, tensions continue to mount between the two countries. The latest issues that could add to the bitterness are circumstances leading to the recall of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. Unnamed American officials have told the New York Times that the ISI is responsible for revealing the station chiefs identity, leading to threats to his life and resulting in his exit. A law suit naming, among others, the CIA station chief is currently in the process which could in fact be the real reason for the officials exit rather than the blowing up of his cover.

CIAs chief official in Islamabad reportedly plays the role of a secret general in the war against the militants. The lawsuit in Pakistan was initiated by the relatives of some of the noncombatants killed in a drone strike. There is a possibility that more Pakistanis affected by the drone attacks might sue US officials in Supreme Court or even in the US courts. While Washington does not officially own the drone attacks, it is an open secret that they are being launched by the CIA. Meanwhile their number and the resulting casualties continue to increase while the attacks are being extended to areas that had not been targeted so far. On Thursday and Friday alone, at least 54 people were killed in these attacks in the Khyber Agency.

Drone attacks are highly unpopular in Pakistan for the casualties they inflict on innocent people. There is a need on the part of Washington and Islamabad to work out other ways of cooperation that can better ensure security for noncombatants. Any misunderstanding between the US and Pakistan needs to be avoided at this crucial juncture in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is as much in the interest of Pakistan as that of the US to root out terrorism from the region. There is a need, however, on the part of the two sides to address each others genuine concerns instead of taking recourse to recriminations. Meanwhile, Washington would do well to pay due attention to Gen Kayanis observations conveyed in a paper he had handed over to President Obama.