Pakistan Army to Cut US Military Presence
Pakistan's army on Thursday called for cuts in the number of U.S. military personnel inside the country to protest the American commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and threatened to cut cooperation with Washington if it stages more unilateral raids on its territory.
The statement, the first since Monday's raid, signaled the army's anger at the unilateral operation, but was also aimed at pacifying domestic critics who have accused it of failing to protect the country's sovereignty — potent charges in a country where anti-Americanism runs deep.
Ties between America and Pakistan were already strained before the raid because of American allegations that Islamabad was failing to crackdown on Afghan Taliban factions sheltering on its soil, and Pakistani anger over U.S. drone strikes on its soil.
It did not refer to international suspicions that the army, or elements within it, may have sheltered bin Laden, but admitted intelligence "shortcomings" in not spotting bin Laden, who was living in a large compound in Abbottabad, an army town just a two hours drive from the capital, Islamabad.
The statement was issued after a meeting of top generals. It said Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani told his colleagues that a decision had been made to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel to the "minimum essential" levels. The statement gave no details on the numbers, and a spokesman declined to elaborate.
The U.S. has around 275 declared U.S. military personnel in Pakistan at any one time, some of them helping train the Pakistan army. U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Pakistani army also warned that it would review its military and intelligence cooperation with Washington if the United States carries out any more similar raids. Earlier, the government had warned of "disastrous consequences" if the U.S. staged a similar attack on its territory.
It said the Inter-Services Intelligence agency had given initial information to the CIA about bin Laden, but claimed the "CIA did not share further development of intelligence on the case with the ISI, contrary to the existing practice between the two services."
The raid on bin Laden has sharpened tensions between the two countries. But while some U.S. lawmakers have been calling on Washington to cut its aid to the country, the Obama administration and British Prime Minister David Cameron have indicated they would continue with their policy of engaging with the country.
"It is not always an easy relationship," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday in Rome. "But on the other hand, it is a productive one for both of our countries and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies."