Defiant Pakistan won’t allow scaled up drone hits


The rising tensions between Pakistan and the United States have led to the indefinite postponement of the crucial strategic dialogue, and adding further complexities to their strained ties, Islamabad has decided to vehemently oppose any surge in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) strikes and more covert military operations on its soil as was hinted by US President Barack Obama in his recently announced policy of troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
Pakistan conveyed its serious concerns to the Obama administration about the US drawdown plans for Afghanistan in Kabul on Tuesday during the ‘core group’ meeting of Islamabad, Kabul and Washington that was held to further the ongoing reconciliation process with the Taliban.
It was during that meeting that the Pakistani delegation led by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir made it clear that Pakistan would not tolerate any surge and expansion in drone attacks beyond the tribal areas, as well as more operations by American special forces on its soil to capture or kill al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.
President Obama, in a major policy announcement a few days ago, said 33,000 US surge troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September next year. He also hinted at more special forces operations inside Pakistan on the pattern of the one carried out covertly on May 2 in Abbottabad to take out al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. In the wake of President’s Obama speech, the US officials said that evolving military strategy would increasingly rely on targeted, clandestine strikes rather than conventional military operations.
They said the US would continue to deliver precise and overwhelming force against al Qaeda in the tribal areas. This has further heightened tensions between Islamabad and Washington, whose ties are already strained in the aftermath of the Abbottabad raid. According to Pakistani officials here, one major loss of the prevailing tension in Pak-US ties was the postponement of the strategic dialogue for an indefinite time period.
“No holding of the dialogue is in sight as long as the relations between the two countries remain under stress and strain,” said an official here on Thursday, requesting anonymity. The dialogue, which was supposed to take place in April this year, was postponed for the first time after CIA operative Raymond Davis was arrested in Lahore for killing two Pakistani citizens.
After the resolution of the Davis issue, the two sides tentatively decided to hold the dialogue in May.
The strategic dialogue is meant to increase ties between Islamabad and Washington not only in the defence sector but also in many other fields such as health, education and energy. The last round of the Pak-US strategic dialogue was held in October 2010 in Washington.