Posts Tagged ‘ Leon Panetta ’

In Sign of Normalization, Pentagon to Reimburse Pakistan $688 Million

By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER for The New York Times

Kerry Panetta

The Pentagon quietly notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, an effort to normalize support for the Pakistani military after nearly two years of crises and mutual retaliation.

The biggest proponent of putting foreign aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan on a steady footing is the man President Barack Obama is leaning toward naming as secretary of state: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has frequently served as an envoy to Pakistan, including after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was a co-author of a law that authorized five years and about $7.5 billion of nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan.

The United States also provides about $2 billion in annual security assistance, roughly half of which goes to reimburse Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism.

Until now, many of these reimbursements, called coalition support funds, have been held up, in part because of disputes with Pakistan over the Bin Laden raid, the operations of the C.I.A., and its decision to block supply lines into Afghanistan last year.

The $688 million payment — the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 — has caused barely a ripple of protest since it was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec. 7.

The absence of a reaction, American and Pakistani officials say, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an errant American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.

Mr. Kerry’s nomination would be welcomed in Pakistan, where he is seen as perhaps the most sympathetic to Pakistani concerns of any senior lawmaker. He has nurtured relationships with top civilian and military officials, as well as the I.S.I., Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency.

But if he becomes secretary of state, Mr. Kerry will inherit one of the hardest diplomatic tasks in South Asia: helping Pakistan find a role in steering Afghanistan toward a political agreement with the Taliban. As the United States, which tried and failed to broker such an agreement, begins to step back, Pakistan’s role is increasing.

For a relationship rocked in the past two years by a C.I.A. contractor’s shooting of two Pakistanis, the Navy SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden and the accidental airstrike, perhaps the most remarkable event in recent months has been relative calm. A senior American official dealing with Pakistan said recently that “this is the longest we’ve gone in a while without a crisis.”

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said, “Pakistan-United States relations are settling down to a more stable trajectory.”

The interlude has allowed the United States to reduce the huge backlog of NATO supplies at the border — down to about 3,000 containers from 7,000 when the border crossings reopened — and to conduct dry runs for the tons of equipment that will flow out of Afghanistan to Pakistani ports when the American drawdown steps up early next year.

Moreover, the two sides have resumed a series of high-level meetings — capped by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meeting this month with top Pakistani officials in Brussels — on a range of topics including counterterrorism, economic cooperation, energy and the security of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, concurred. “There’s greater convergence between the two countries than there has been in eight years,” she said. “It’s been a fairly quick kiss and make up, but it’s been driven by the approaching urgency of 2014, and by their shared desire for a stable outcome in the region.”

The one exception to the state of calm has been a tense set of discussions about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. United States officials have told their Pakistani colleagues that Islamabad’s move to smaller, more portable weapons creates a greater risk that one could be stolen or diverted. A delegation of American nuclear experts was in Pakistan last week, but found that the two countries had fundamentally divergent views about whether Pakistan’s changes to its arsenal pose a danger.

The greatest progress, officials say, has been in the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of mutual recrimination. A high-level Afghan delegation visited Pakistan in November, resulting in the release of several midlevel Taliban commanders from Pakistani jails as a sign of good will in restarting the peace process.

The United States, which was quietly in the background of those meetings, approved of the release of the prisoners, but has still held back on releasing five militants from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a key Taliban demand.

One American official said there was a “big push” to move the talks process forward during the current winter lull in fighting. The United States is quietly seeking to revive a peace channel in Qatar, which was frozen earlier this year after the Taliban refused to participate.

Despite the easing of tensions in recent months, there are still plenty of sore spots in the relationship.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, who heads the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, told a Senate hearing last week that Pakistan’s efforts to stem the flow of a common agricultural fertilizer, calcium ammonium nitrate, that Taliban insurgents use to make roadside bombs had fallen woefully short.

“Our Pakistani partners can and must do more,” General Barbero told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing.

American officials have also all but given up on Pakistan’s carrying out a clearing operation in North Waziristan, a major militant safe haven.

“Pakistan’s continued acceptance of sanctuaries for Afghan-focused insurgents and failure to interdict I.E.D. materials and components continue to undermine the security of Afghanistan and pose an enduring threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces,” a Pentagon report, mandated by Congress, concluded last week.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Kerry for Secretary is a great choice now that Susan Rice did not work out. We love Hillary Clinton and as a Democrat and Liberal through and through, as much as we wish Secretary Clinton a speedy recovery and look forward to voting for her as the first woman President of the United States, it is high time to have a man in there as a Secretary working together with Secretary Panetta. John Kerry is a good and honorable soldier who is a patriot and will uphold American interests but will be a person who is very familiar with Pakistan and the need to have a dialogue with the men who man the barracks in Rawalpindi, regardless who happens to be the Prime Minister in Islamabad. We hope he has a speedy confirmation and no obstructionism by the Do Nothing GOP~

Quips a Sign That U.S.-Pakistan Bond Soured

By Sebastian Abbot and Rebecca Santana for The Associated Press

You know a friendship has gone sour when you start making mean jokes about your friend in front of his most bitter nemesis.

So it was a bad sign last week when the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joshed in front of an audience of Indians about how Washington kept Pakistan in the dark about the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden a year ago.

“They didn’t know about our operation. That was the whole idea,” Panetta said with a chuckle at a Q&A session after a speech in New Delhi, raising laughs from the audience. The bin Laden raid by U.S. commandos in a Pakistani town infuriated Islamabad because it had no advance notice, and it was seen by Pakistan’s powerful military as a humiliation.

The U.S. and Pakistan are starting to look more like enemies than allies, threatening the U.S. fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the country and efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan before American troops withdraw.
Long plagued by frustration and mistrust, the relationship has plunged to its lowest level since the 9/11 attacks forced the countries into a tight but awkward embrace over a decade ago. The United States has lost its patience with Pakistan and taken the gloves off to make its anger clear.

“It has taken on attributes and characteristics now of a near adversarial relationship, even though neither side wants it to be that way,” said Maleeha Lodhi, who was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, and was key in hurriedly assembling the two countries’ alliance after the terror attacks.

The latest irritant is Pakistan’s refusal to end its six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan. Even if that issue is resolved, however, the relationship may be on an irreversible downward slide. The main source of U.S. anger is Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after militants using its territory to launch attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

On the Pakistani side, officials are fed up with Washington’s constant demands for more without addressing Islamabad’s concerns or sufficiently appreciating the country’s sacrifice. Pakistan has lost thousands of troops fighting a domestic Taliban insurgency fueled partly by resentment of the U.S. alliance.

Panetta’s comments about the bin Laden raid may have been unscripted, but others he made while in India and Afghanistan seemed calculated to step up pressure on Pakistan. He stressed Washington’s strong relationship with India — which Islamabad considers its main, historic enemy — and defended unpopular American drone attacks in Pakistan.

He also said in unusually sharp terms that the U.S. was running out of patience with Islamabad’s failure to go after the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, considered the most dangerous militant group fighting in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqanis and other Afghan militants based on its soil because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, especially in countering the influence of India. Over the past 18 months, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has suffered repeated crises.

In January 2011, a CIA contractor sparked outrage when he shot to death two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore who he claimed were trying to rob him.
In November, American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani troops at two Afghan border posts. The U.S. has said it was an accident, but the Pakistani army claims it was deliberate.

Pakistan retaliated by kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones and closing its border to NATO supplies meant for troops in Afghanistan. Negotiations to reopen the supply route are slow but under way.
But Pakistani officials have said the route will not reopen without some kind of apology. The U.S. has expressed its regret over the incident but has refused to apologize for fear it could open the Obama administration to GOP criticism.

US-Pakistan Tensions Deepen as Obama Snubs Zardari at Nato Summit

As Reported By Ewen MacAskill for The Guardian

The rift between the US and Pakistan deepened on Monday as the Nato summit in Chicago broke up without a deal on Afghanistan supply routes.

Barack Obama, at a press conference to wind up the summit, made no attempt to conceal his exasperation, issuing a pointed warning to Pakistan it was in its wider interest to work with the US to avoid being “consumed” by extremists.

Seldom in recent years have the tensions between Washington and Islamabad been on public show to the extent as at the Chicago, overshadowing the two-day Nato summit.

The main point of friction is Pakistan’s closure of Nato supply routes to Afghanistan in protest over drone attacks and a US air strike in November that killed two dozen Pakistani troops.

Obama refused to make time during the two-day summit to see the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari for a face-to-face bilateral meeting. In a press conference, Obama made a point of stressing that the only exchange he had with his Pakistani counterpart was short. “Very brief, as we were walking into the summit,” Obama said.

The US president said he “did not want to paper over the cracks” and that there has been tension between the US-led international force in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last few months.

But ultimately, it was in the US interest to have a stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan, Obama said, adding it was in the interest of Pakistan to work with the US to ensure it is not consumed by extremists.

There are fears in the US that the Pakistan government is unstable and that the government could fall, to be replaced by hardliners. The risk for Obama is displaying his annoyance with Pakistan at the Chicago summit is that Zardari could leave the summit feeling humiliated and even less willing to play a positive role over Afghanistan.

Obama declined to meet Zadari one-to-one because Pakistan is refusing to re-open its Afghanistan border to Nato, which means the US and others are having to resupply their military forces through the slower and more expensive routes from the north and Russia.

The president claimed that he never anticipated the Pakistan supply line issue being resolved at the summit and, taking a more optimistic view of the stand-off, he said they were making “diligent progress”.

“We think that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan. Neither country is going to have the kind of security, stability and prosperity that it needs unless they can resolve some of these outstanding issues,” Obama said.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, at a press conference in Chicago, reflected the irritation with Pakistan, describing the blocked routes as “frustrating”. Cameron said he expected a deal eventually but not at the summit.

In its final communique, Nato formally committed to its withdrawal of the 130,000-strong force from Afghanistan based on a timetable agreed earlier by Obama and Karzai. All international combat troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. But the communique said a smaller force would remain to help “train, advise and assist” the Afghan army.

The communique does not say how many troops will be left but US commanders in Kabul are looking at a Nato force of around 15,000-20,000. Reflecting the public mood in Nato countries tired of the war, the comminque said the withdrawal timetable is “irreversible”.

Obama, at the opening of the second day of the Nato summit on Monday morning, showed his displeasure with the Pakistan government by singling out for mention the Central Asia countries and Russia that have stepped in to replace the Pakistan supply route and made no mention of Pakistan. Zardari was in the room at the time.

To ram home the point, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, also held a meeting at the Nato summit with senior ministers from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Panetta expressed his “deep appreciation” for their support.

Zardari has demanded an apology from the US for the killing of the 24 Pakistani troops in November in return for reopening supply lines. He is also proposing that the tariff for each vehicle be raised from $250 to $5,000. The US is bitter about this, noting the amount of American military and other aid that goes to Pakistan annually.

In his wrap-up press conference, Obama stood praised the Chicago police for their handling of the demonstrations but also defended the rights of the protesters. “This is part of what Nato defends: free speech and freedom of assembly,” Obama said.

Panetta to Confront Pakistan at NATO Summit on Transport Costs

By David Cloud for New York Daily News

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta heads to this weekend’s NATO summit prepared to confront Pakistan over what he considers price-gouging for transport of supplies to Afghanistan and hoping for a “consensus” among allies over the war effort.

In an interview before his arrival in Chicago, where the summit is scheduled to begin Sunday, Panetta all but ruled out paying Pakistan $5,000 for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for NATO troops waging the Afghanistan war. Pakistani officials have demanded that amount as a condition for reopening supply routes that have been closed to the alliance since fall.

“Considering the financial challenges that we’re facing, that’s not likely,” Panetta said of the demand.

Before the supply routes were closed in November after a mistaken U.S. attack on two remote Pakistani border posts that killed two dozen Pakistani troops, NATO convoys were paying an average of about $250 a truck, a senior U.S. official said.

U.S. officials say they remain hopeful they can resolve the dispute, perhaps at the summit. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari accepted a last-minute invitation to attend the meetings, although he is not expected to meet one-on-one with President Obama, officials said.

Thousands of trucks a day carrying supplies would go through multiple border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making the fees a potentially massive source of revenue for the cash-strapped government in Islamabad.

The U.S. has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan’s north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to unfold over the next 21/2 years as troops leave the country will be “significantly” more difficult if routes in Pakistan aren’t used, the Pentagon acknowledged in a report last month.

The Obama administration hopes the two-day summit will highlight what Panetta called a “consensus” within NATO about how to disengage militarily by the end of 2014. Exhausted after more than a decade of war, the U.S. and its allies want to hand off responsibility for fighting the Taliban to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, even though its army and police remain well short of being able to stand on their own.

“Everybody in the alliance recognizes that for this to work, we can’t pick up and leave. We’ve got to remain there to provide support and to assist them in that effort with training, with assistance, with advice,” Panetta said.

But he acknowledged that there would be difficulties, both on the battlefield and within the alliance. Those splits are exemplified by the new French president, Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader who campaigned on a vow to withdraw all 3,300 French troops by the end of this year. Hollande met with Obama at the White House on Friday.

Panetta, who plans to meet the new French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Chicago, indicated that the U.S. hopes France will agree to keep some forces in a noncombat role in Afghanistan for the next 2 1/2 years, even if they withdraw all combat troops early.

Yet a more rapid exit by France than planned could lead other allies to speed up their own troop withdrawals.

“There are some countries — Canada, France — that want to bring their combat operations to an end on a faster time track, but that doesn’t have to mean they won’t accept the responsibility to continue to provide the needed support,” Panetta said.

Panetta acknowledged that U.S. efforts to persuade other countries to make long-term financial pledges to fund Afghanistan’s army and police, a key objective of the two-day Chicago summit, is running into difficulties.

“Of course, it’s not easy considering the financial difficulties that a lot of these countries are going through,” he said. “Many of them have come forward and said they would be willing to make a commitment, and I really do think we will be able to achieve the support levels we need.”

In an effort to secure more pledges, the U.S. is asking other countries to commit to providing aid for only three years, though Afghanistan’s armed forces are expected to need foreign assistance for at least a decade, a Western diplomat in Washington said.

A year ago, the Obama administration was hopeful it could draw the Taliban into peace negotiations with Karzai’s government, but Panetta acknowledged that he didn’t see a deal to end the conflict happening “any time soon.”

Peace Effort Takes Karzai to Pakistan .

By Yaroslav Trofimov, Tom Wright and Adam Entous for The Wall Street Journal

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday met with Pakistan’s leaders, trying to gain Islamabad’s support for his peace outreach to the Taliban, as U.S. officials worked to keep expectations in check about the strategy’s prospects for yielding direct peace talks with the Islamic militant group.

The Taliban, meanwhile, denied Mr. Karzai’s claim that they have been negotiating with the Afghan government.On the first day of his three-day visit to Pakistan, Mr. Karzai met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who promised Pakistani cooperation in investigating the September assassination of the chief Afghan peace negotiator and voiced support for an Afghan-led peace process. Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who wields considerable influence over the country’s foreign policy, also took part in the talks.

In Islamabad, Mr. Karzai reiterated that respect for the Afghan constitution and for women’s rights remain his “crucial conditions” for any future deal with the Taliban.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has been skeptical of reconciliation efforts in the past, at a Thursday news conference lauded Mr. Karzai’s remarks—made in a Wall Street Journal interview—about Kabul’s willingness to engage with the Taliban.

“What President Karzai’s statement confirmed is that Afghanistan is very much involved in the process of reconciliation and that is extremely helpful and important to determining whether or not we are ultimately going to be able to succeed with reconciliation or not,” Mr. Panetta said. “The news that Afghanistan has joined those reconciliation discussions is important.”

Mr. Panetta said he didn’t know whether additional three-way sessions between the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban have been planned.

Another senior Obama administration official remained cautious about whether such confidence-building contacts would translate into direct peace talks, calling the process “complicated and precarious.”

A day after Mr. Karzai told the Journal that Afghan government representatives have had contacts with U.S. and Taliban officials in an attempt to end the 10-year war, the Taliban said they had no intention of negotiating with “the powerless Kabul administration.”

“If someone met the Karzai administration representing the Islamic Emirate, he is an impostor,” said a statement by the Taliban leadership, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban in the past denied reports of peace talks with the U.S., only to confirm them in recent months.

U.S. officials have confirmed Mr. Karzai’s remarks, saying at least one three-way negotiating session occurred in recent weeks.

Admitting negotiations with Kabul would be fraught will political risks for the insurgent leadership, possibly undermining the morale of Taliban fighters, and weakening the militants’ resolve amid coalition offensives.

The intensity of the conflict already declined dramatically in recent months, Afghan and coalition officials say, though it is unclear whether this drop is due to the spreading news about peace talks, unusually harsh winter weather, or a strategic decision by the Taliban to hold their fire as foreign forces withdraw.

Pakistan, which U.S. officials say provides shelter and support to the Taliban leadership, plays a crucial role in Afghanistan’s peace outreach.

Mr. Karzai’s relations with Pakistan neared a rupture point after the September assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the peace negotiator, by purported Taliban peace emissaries. At the time, Afghan officials blamed the killing on Pakistan, something that Pakistani officials denied. Two suspects have since been arrested in Pakistan.

The White House wants to show progress on the reconciliation track before a May summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in Chicago. There, NATO leaders are expected to announce plans to shift to a train-and-assist mission in Afghanistan in 2013, giving Mr. Karzai’s security forces the lead role in combat operations before most U.S. and NATO troops pull out at the end of 2014.

Where Pakistan fits into tentative peace talks with the Taliban remains unclear. The U.S. has not kept Islamabad informed about developments in the peace process, Pakistan civilian and military leaders claim.

U.S. and Afghan officials say they are concerned Pakistan might try to undermine peace talks. In January 2010, Pakistan detained a senior Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Afghan and U.S. officials claim Pakistan arrested him for contacting the U.S. and Mr. Karzai’s government without Pakistan’s knowledge, a claim denied by Pakistan.

Afghanistan has asked for Pakistan to transfer Mr. Baradar to Kabul, but this hasn’t happened so far. Pakistani officials deny they back the Taliban.

Pakistan will stay on the sidelines in the tentative peace process as long as the U.S. remains distrustful of Islamabad, said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.

“We’re not sure to what extent the U.S. wants Pakistan to play a role,” Mr. Gul said. “The Pakistani role at this moment seems very limited.”

Pakistan’s ability to play a meaningful part in talks has further been hampered by a deterioration in relations with U.S. after an American helicopter strike in November mistakenly killed 26 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border.

U.S. officials say they are still trying to hammer out an agreement with Taliban representatives on a sequence of confidence-building measures aimed at laying the ground for any future direct negotiations on ending the war.

In addition to the establishment of a political office for the Taliban in Qatar, the U.S. wants the Taliban to issue a statement distancing itself from international terrorism and to agree to stop fighting in certain areas of the country.

The U.S., in turn, would transfer of up to five Taliban militants held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar. Key U.S. lawmakers have raised objections to the prospective prisoner transfers.

Officials have identified the five Guantanamo detainees who may be transferred to Qatar as Muhammad Fazl, a former senior Taliban defense official; two former local governors, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Noorullah Nori; former Taliban intelligence official Abdul Haq Wasiq; and top Taliban financier Muhammad Nabi.

Messrs. Haq Wasiq, Fazl and Nori were among the first 20 detainees who arrived at Guantanamo Bay 10 years ago, when the prison was opened on Jan. 11, 2002.

The U.S. has received assurances from Qatar that the five militants, if transferred, won’t be released by the government or handed over to the Taliban. But officials said the men could be freed later as part of a future Afghan-Taliban peace deal.

Pakistani Doctor Helped U.S. Track Bin Laden, Panetta says

By Saeed Shah for McClatchy Newspapers

A senior American official has for the first time admitted that a Pakistani doctor played a key role in tracking Osama bin Laden to his hideout in northern Pakistan, and called for his release.

The comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were the first public confirmation of a part of the bin Laden operation reported by McClatchy Newspapers in July, about how the CIA used Shakil Afridi to try to establish whether the al-Qaida leader was really living in a large house in Abbottabad, northern Pakistan.

This morning in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Inquiry Commission on the Abbottabad Operation issued an order to charge Afridi with treason, local media reported. The timing makes it appear that Pakistan is rebuking Panetta for his public acknowledgement of Afridi’s role. Afridi has been in Pakistani custody since the country’s own spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), learned of the secret task performed by the doctor, who set up a fake vaccination program in Abbottabad to get DNA samples from those staying at the compound.

The CIA was never certain that bin Laden was present in the house. Afridi worked for the American intelligence agency in the weeks leading up to the Navy SEALs raid on May 2, setting up an elaborate scheme that was supposedly going house to house to vaccinate residents in Abbottabad.

Panetta told CBS’ “60 Minutes” “I am very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual (Afridi). This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regard to this operation.” Panetta also voiced his belief that elements within Pakistan must have known that bin Laden, or at least someone significant, was present inside the compound. The interview was posted on the “60 Minutes” website. However, it was not included in the segment telecast on Sunday night. The McClatchy investigation discovered that Afridi was arrested by the ISI in late May and was tortured. It is believed that he remains in the custody of the intelligence agency, which is part of the military.

The whereabouts of Afridi’s family, including his American wife of Pakistani origin, is still unknown. The fate of the doctor has become another source of tension between Islamabad and Washington, with American officials pressing Pakistan to free him so he and his family can be resettled in the United States.

The military, which will decide what happens to Afridi, is furious that the CIA recruited Pakistani citizens for clandestine operations inside the country. Privately, officials point out that it is a crime to work for a foreign intelligence agency.
The doctor has turned into a bargaining chip in the failing U.S-Pakistan alliance. It is thought that Pakistan will let him go after public attention on the case wanes and it gets something in return from the U.S. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistan,” Panetta told “60 Minutes.”

“Pakistan and the U.S. have a common cause here against terrorism,” he said. “And for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think it is a real mistake on their part.”
Panetta, who was in charge of the CIA at the time of the bin Laden raid, also said that while there was no evidence of Pakistani complicity in keeping the al-Qaida chief, suspicions must have been raised about his hideout. “I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound. Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls. … It was the largest compound in the area.

“So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?’” Panetta said.
But asked whether he knew for sure that Pakistan was aware of bin Laden’s presence, he said: “I don’t have any hard evidence, so I can’t say it for a fact.”

Pakistan, US Pledge to Strengthen Alliance

As Reported By The Khaleej Times

Pakistani and US diplomats on Thursday vowed to strengthen their troubled alliance two days after Washington acknowledged for the first time that it is waging “war” against militants in Pakistan.

US special envoy, Marc Grossman, on Thursday met Pakistani leaders in Islamabad as US drone strikes killed 10 militants, including a commander in the Haqqani network that the US military has linked to Pakistani intelligence.

“We tried to think about the future and way to keep our strategic dialogue going,” Grossman told a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

“We also talked about how can we continue in a systematic way to identify the interests that we share with Pakistan, and there are many, and then find ways to act on them jointly,” he added.

Grossman said they had been preparing for conferences on the future of Afghanistan, in Istanbul next month and in the German city of Bonn in December.

US officials openly acknowledge that the relationship with Pakistan is complicated, but say it is important to persevere no less because Pakistan is a key stakeholder in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan.

Khar said both sides would “build on this partnership which is not only important for the two countries but also for the region and the whole world”.

On Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time that the US is waging a war in Pakistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described Washington’s relationship with Islamabad as “complicated”.

“And admittedly, there are a lot of reasons for that. We are fighting a war in their country,” Panetta said.

He said the two countries sharply disagreed over “relations they maintain with some of the militant groups in that country,” a reference to Washington’s demand that Islamabad crack down on the Haqqani network.

A covert CIA drone campaign that the US government declines to discuss publicly has seen around 30 missile attacks in Pakistan since American troops killed Osama bin Laden near the capital Islamabad on May 2.

US Links Militant Group to Pakistan Government

As Reported by ABC News

The United States says there is evidence linking the Pakistani government to the militant group that carried out last week’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, claims there are links between the Pakistani government and high-profile terrorist group the Haqqani network.

In blunt comments broadcast by state-run Radio Pakistan, Mr Munter said: “Let me tell you that the attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago that was the work of the Haqqani network,” he said, referring to a deadly miltant attack in on Tuesday.

“There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.

“We have to make sure that we work together to fight terrorism.”

Asked to provide evidence of the link with the Pakistani government, Mr Munter said only “we believe that to be the case”.

The Haqqani network, which is closely allied to the Taliban, has been blamed for several high-profile attacks against Western, Indian and government targets in Afghanistan.

The group is believed to be based in Pakistan but Islamabad has consistently denied links with militant groups.

The US has long urged Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network and suspected the group had support within the Islamabad administration.

Strained ties
Acknowledging that the past year had been tough, Mr Munter urged joint action against terrorism and said that the United States and Pakistan were “fundamentally on the same side”.

But the public comments are a mark of strained ties between the fragile anti-terrorism allies, with relations fractious since the US raid on Pakistani soil that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.

The Haqqani network is thought to have been behind a number of attacks in Afghanistan, where NATO plans a gradual withdrawal of troops after a gruelling 10-year war.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the network, and his son Sirajuddin, who now runs the group, have both been designated “global terrorists” by Washington.

Mr Munter’s remarks follow a warning by US defence secretary Leon Panetta, who said after the Kabul attack that the US would retaliate against Pakistan-based insurgents.

“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis and we’ve made very little progress in that area,” Mr Panetta said Wednesday, a day after the Kabul siege.

“I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. I’ll just let you know that we’re not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on,” he said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned those remarks as “out of line”, saying that “terrorism and militancy is a complex issue”.

Panetta: ‘No Choice’ in US Relations with Pakistan

By David Gollust for Voice of America

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the United States has no choice but to maintain close relations with Pakistan, despite government links with Islamic militants including the Haqqani network. The State Department, meanwhile, put sanctions on another Haqqani network commander.

Panetta, who took over as defense secretary in June after two years of heading the CIA, declined comment on news reports that Pakistan allowed China to inspect the wreckage of an advanced U.S. helicopter lost in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But at a public forum with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Washington’s National Defense University, the defense chief was unusually candid about U.S. problem issues with Pakistan.

Panetta said Pakistan has “relationships” with the Haqqani network – militants based in western Pakistan who conduct cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and with Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who have attacked India.

Both groups are listed by the United States as terrorist organizations. Despite complaints that Pakistan has withheld visas for U.S. citizens being posted there, Panetta said the relationship remains essential.

“There is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan,” said Panetta. “Why? Because we are fighting a war there. We are fighting al-Qaida there. And they do give us some cooperation in that effort. Because they do represent an important force in that region. Because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons, and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons. So for all of those reasons, we’ve got to maintain a relationship with Pakistan.”

Secretary of State Clinton said the Obama administration considers relations with Pakistan to be of “paramount importance.”

She said there have been “challenges” in bilateral ties for decades with valid complaints on both sides, and that she credits the Islamabad government with lately recognizing its shared interest with Washington in confronting terrorism.

“I was very pleased when the Pakistanis moved into [the] Swat [Valley] and cleaned out a lot of what had become a kind of Pakistani Taliban stronghold,” said Clinton. “And then they began to take some troops off their border with India, to put more resources into the fight against the Pakistani Taliban. Now, as Leon [Panetta] says, we have some other targets that we discuss with them – the Haqqanis, for example. And yet it’s been a relatively short period of time, two-and-a-half years, when they have begun to reorient themselves militarily against what is, in our view, an internal threat to them.”

The State Department on Tuesday designated a key Haqqani network commander – Mullah Sangeen Zadran – a terrorist under a 2001 White House executive order, freezing any U.S. assets he has and barring Americans from business dealings with him.

At the same time, Sangeen was designated a terrorist by the U.N. sanctions committee, which will subject him to a global travel ban, an asset freeze and an arms embargo.

A State Department statement said Sangeen, is a “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s southeast Paktika province and a senior lieutenant of network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. It said Sangeen has coordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into that country and that he is linked to numerous bomb attacks and kidnappings.

US Suspends Pakistan Military Aid as Diplomatic Relations Worsen

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

The Pakistan military declared it did not need US military aid as the White House confirmed that it would withhold some $800m (£498m) in assistance to the country’s armed forces.

The row will worsen the already poisonous relationship between the two “allies”, which since the unilateral US raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May has lurched towards breakdown.

Pakistan recently expelled US military trainers from the country, limited the ability of US diplomats and other officials to get visas, and restricted CIA operations on its territory. “The Pakistani relationship is difficult but it must be made to work over time. But until we get through these difficulties we will hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give them,” William Daley, the White House chief-of-staff, told ABC News on Sunday.

At stake is Pakistani co-operation against al-Qaida, the Taliban and other extremist groups, which the increasingly bitter relationship is putting at risk. Much of al-Qaida’s remaining leadership is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, while Pakistani territory is used as a safe haven by Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network, fighting across the border in Afghanistan.

The new US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, said over the weekend that he believed Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was in Pakistan’s tribal area and “he’s one of those we would like to see the Pakistanis target”. Pakistan responded by asking for the US to share the intelligence on Zawahiri’s whereabouts.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is meanwhile fighting its home-grown extremists in the tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, where a new offensive was launched earlier this month. Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistan military, said that the military had received no formal notification of any aid being cut. He also pointed out that the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, had already declared that cash reimbursements to the military, known as coalition support funds, should go instead to the civilian government, where there was more need.

“We have conducted our [anti-extremist] military operations without external support or assistance,” said Abbas. “Reports coming out of the US are aimed at undermining the authority of our military organisations.”

Critical stories about Pakistan are leaked on an almost daily basis to the American press, riling Pakistani public and official opinion against Washington. Many in Pakistan believe there is a concerted American effort to weaken Pakistan and its armed forces, which are some of the largest in the world.

For Washington, Pakistan’s refusal to launch an offensive against the Haqqani network and suspicions that Bin Laden benefited from some kind of official support to live in Pakistan has corroded ties.

There are also questions hanging over future civilian aid, which is meant to provide $1.5bn a year in economic help.

Cyril Almeida, a columnist with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, said the country was in danger of becoming internationally isolated, while US policy towards Pakistan was muddled.

“The US can’t decide they if they want to stay in this relationship or cut Pakistan off,” he said. “These leaks and pressure tactics just confirm to the army generals the view that America is no friend of Pakistan and it wishes Pakistan harm.”

Since 2001, the US has provided $21bn in civilian and military assistance, including $4.5bn in the 2010-2011 financial year, as aid was increased under the Obama administration. Two proposed bills in Congress over the last week, which were voted down, would have cut off aid to Pakistan altogether.

Pakistan’s economy is spiralling downwards, with electricity shortages shutting down industry, and rising food and fuel prices causing protests on the streets. Karachi, the country’s economic powerhouse, is often shut down by ethnic gang violence, which has claimed more than 100 lives in the current spate of bloodshed.

Pakistan Aid Depends on Security Cooperation, Panetta Says

By Roxana Tiron for Bloomberg News

An accelerated counterterrorism campaign in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is “vital” for the U.S. to defeat al-Qaeda there and prevent its return, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta, who is nominated to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Any decisions on future U.S. security assistance “will be informed” by Pakistan’s response to the “concrete steps” the U.S. has set for counterterrorism cooperation, Panetta said in a 79-page set of answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in advance of his confirmation hearing scheduled for June 9.

Last month, the U.S. found and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was hiding in a compound in the city of Abbottabad, 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital, Islamabad.

The U.S. “train-advise-equip” programs with Pakistani military and paramilitary forces have been important in eliminating terrorist sanctuaries and disrupting the al-Qaeda network, Panetta said.

“It is vital, however, that Pakistan live up to its end of the bargain, cooperating more fully in counterterrorism matters and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups,” he said.

Pakistan continues to lack the necessary military and civilian capacities to “hold” and “build” in areas along the border region that have been cleared of al-Qaeda forces, Panetta said.

Seeking Results

“If confirmed, I will work the Congress to ensure that the support we provide is yielding the results we seek,” he said.
Since 2009, Pakistan has undertaken counterinsurgency operations against extremist organizations in the northwest, including in Swat, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur “with varying levels of success,” said Panetta.

“Pakistan’s level of commitment is reflected in the enormous casualties it has suffered as a result of terrorism in the last few years, including more than 11,000 military personnel killed or wounded in action and more than 30,000 civilian causalities in recent years,” he said.
Panetta said that while, bin Laden’s death is a “significant blow” to al-Qaeda, the core group and its offshoots “remain a vary dangerous threat” in the region and to the U.S. homeland.

“There is a risk that decentralized affiliates may pose an increased threat to the United States,” he said
Panetta said that President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy is “sound” and the U.S. has made “the progress necessary to give the President meaningful options for his decision,” on how many U.S. forces to withdraw beginning in July.
The military gains in Afghanistan are “helping to create the conditions for reconciliation,” between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban insurgents.

Raid Sparks Question: Is Pakistan Doing Enough?

As Reported By CNN

The United States wants answers from Pakistan about how Osama Bin Laden could have lived in that country — near a major military base not far from the capital — without the government knowing.

The United States is asking Pakistan for information on who built and owned the compound where bin Laden lived, two senior U.S. officials said Wednesday. The United States also wants to know about security at the compound, in the city of Abbottabad.

Pakistani government officials have insisted that they did not know Bin Laden’s whereabouts. They reacted angrily to news that CIA Director Leon Panetta told U.S. legislators in a closed-door hearing that “either they (the Pakistanis) were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be.”

“What worse statement can come than that we heard from Panetta?” a senior Pakistani intelligence official said. “I am afraid this statement is totally regrettable. (Panetta) of all people knows how much we have been doing.”

The official, who did not want to be named, said his country had been generously sharing intelligence with their American counterparts.

“We have been sharing everything with them, but they have been selectively sharing with us,” the official said. “They are entirely dependent on what we provided them. Why were details (of the operation to kill bin Laden) not shared with us?”

Pakistan has argued that it has provided valuable intelligence information and worked with the United States to capture or kill numerous al Qaeda members and other Islamic extremists.

Yet the questions around bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan has exacerbated an already rocky relationship between the two nations.

Many Obama administration officials, lawmakers and observers from across the political spectrum want to know how bin Laden — based at a compound in the military garrison city of Abbottabad — could have eluded Pakistani capture, or whether the government or elements of it harbored bin Laden.

They want to know whether Pakistan is firmly backing the fight against terror or is supportive of militants fighting against troops in Afghanistan.

In Islamabad Tuesday, Marc Grossman, the special U.S. representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the ISI military intelligence Gen. Ahmed Pasha, and military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. During that visit, which was scheduled before the killing of bin Laden, Grossman discussed the operation with the officials, the State Department confirms.

Those officials say the Pakistani officials expressed surprise that bin Laden was living at the compound and the U.S. officials tell CNN they are taking that at face value until more information is available.

The United States has a “complicated but important relationship” with Pakistan, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

Carney told reporters that U.S. officials need to learn more about the “support network” that sustained bin Laden in Pakistan. But he also warned against “tarring” everyone in Pakistan’s government because of the revelation that bin Laden had been living so close to Islamabad.

There has also been “a great deal of important cooperation” in the fight against Islamic extremism, he said. “The idea that these kinds of complications exist is not new.”

But Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who is chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said “this can’t be allowed to go on.”

In comments Tuesday at a House subcommittee hearing on Pakistan, King noted that bin Laden’s compound was near a headquarters for the Pakistani intelligence services.

“There are two possibilities and one answer,” King said. “One is that it was a direct facilitation by elements of the Pakistani government, or Pakistani intelligence is entirely inept, and that has not proven to be the case over the years.”

According to two sources who were in the closed-door briefing with Panetta Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the CIA director echoed King’s concerns.

Panetta made clear, the sources said, that he and other administration officials are trying to get to the bottom of which it was — involvement or incompetence — on the part of the Pakistanis.

In an interview with TIME magazine, Panetta explained why the Pakistanis were not told of the bin Laden mission “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission,” he said. “They might alert the targets.”

At King’s hearing, Seth Jones of the Rand Corporation told the panel that bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan showed that “at the very least, there has not been a high priority in targeting senior al Qaeda leaders” in the country.

“Based on the threat streams coming from this area, those interests have to change in my view,” Jones said. Another terrorism expert, Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, said mistrust between the United States and Pakistan runs both ways, with Pakistani officials fearful that the United States will abandon the region after eliminating bin Laden.

“It is essential that we find ways not only to communicate our frustration to Pakistan,” Kagan said, but also to say “we’re not leaving.”

The United States has regarded Pakistan as a top ally in the fight against the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and other Pakistan-based militants who have launched attacks against international and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. At Tuesday’s hearing, experts also identified Lashkar-e-Taiba as a major emerging threat from Pakistan to the Indian subcontinent and beyond.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the United States has provided $18 billion in foreign assistance and reimbursements to Pakistan, two-thirds of which are security-related.

The administration and lawmakers have praised the Pakistanis for their anti-terrorism efforts, but at the same time some lawmakers suspect the country hasn’t been robust enough in going after terrorists. Some say elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services — the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI — have close ties with militants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agrees that they have been “good at going after some terrorists” but have “very subtly walked both sides of the street.”

“That’s of concern to many of us, I think, because you have to declare yourself,” she told reporters, noting that the issue of Pakistan will be addressed by her committee.

Denis McDonough, who is President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told CNN that despite legitimate questions about what Pakistani authorities knew, the United States needed to maintain the relationship.

“We obviously recognize that nobody has sacrificed more in this war against al Qaeda than the Pakistanis,” McDonough said. “Al Qaeda had declared war, in fact, on the Pakistani government, have threatened and continues to threaten to try to get their hands on nuclear material in that country. … So they obviously have a lot at stake in this fight. So we’re going to continue to work with them and continue to try to partner with them against al Qaeda, because we recognize that it’s not only in our interests, but in their interests.”

Asked if the U.S. funding to Pakistan should continue, McDonough said such investments bolster U.S. security.

“We’ll continue to try to work with them to train, to try to target the common threat that we face from al Qaeda,” McDonough said, adding: “Nobody has greater concern about our ability to … carry out the fight against al Qaeda than the president. We’re going to continue to do that, either with our Pakistani friends or alone. But this is too big a fight for us to give it up.”

McDonough also said he agreed with the reported quote by Panetta that the United States decided not to share intelligence with Pakistan in the run-up to the Monday raid that led to bin Laden’s death because of fears of a leak. Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also cited concern that some Pakistani officials might alert bin Laden.

“This is one reason we did not inform the Pakistanis of our actions,” Lugar said, while noting “there were probably many who were very uncomfortable about the presence likewise.”

The Pakistani government on Tuesday “categorically” denied reports that its leadership “had any prior knowledge” of the U.S. operation against bin Laden

One ISI official denied any complicity in hiding bin Laden, saying one failure and embarrassment doesn’t negate its “track record” of capturing more al Qaeda members than anyone else.

“Yes, we did fail to locate him. Yes, we are embarrassed. But that does not mean we are incompetent and straddling the fence,” the official said. “Had we known that OBL was there we would have raided it and handed him over to the U.S. to silence the critics talking about the complicity of the ISI.”

The United States is reviewing intelligence seized in the compound to determine whether bin Laden received support inside Pakistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN. This comes amid discussions in Washington over the extent of the Pakistani intelligence service’s knowledge of his whereabouts and whether it provided him sanctuary.

Lugar was asked in Washington why taxpayers should support money for Pakistan.

“It’s a very complex country. A very complex set of officials,” the Indiana senator said. “To try to obtain perfection in terms of who the recipients ought to be is out of the question. It’s a question of if there are goals we can achieve if we have some accountability of the money.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN on Tuesday that Pakistan has been an “important partner in counterterrorism cooperation and we’ve had very important cooperation from them.”

But she questions how bin Laden could “hide in plain sight in that kind of compound without the knowledge of high-ranking officials.”

“We have captured many, many al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, so Pakistan has been a cooperating counterterrorism partner,” Rice said, making reference to the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “But everyone knows that there are elements within Pakistan that are still tied to extremism, that has been a concern, and it is very important now that the Pakistanis take a hard look at how this possibly could have happened,”

Mark Quarterman, director of the Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on Pakistan, said there have been strong differences between Washington and Islamabad over U.S. drone strikes in the tribal region and calls to remove CIA operatives in the country. The bin Laden operation and the issues surrounding it add to the tension, he said.

“I would not be surprised if there are questions on Capitol Hill about continued level of support to Pakistan, about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the consideration of the nature of that relationship and how we handle it going forward,” he said.

The Pakistan government and the ISI supported the Taliban when it controlled Afghanistan during the 1990s, but the government broke ties with the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. American officials have consistently indicated that there are rogue ISI elements supportive of militants.

One reason Pakistanis also have supported militants in the tribal region is that the fighters are seen as serving as a bulwark for Pakistani interests. That includes a focus against the influence of longtime rival India in Afghanistan, Quarterman said.

“The Pakistanis are hedging their bets,” he said. “They know the United States isn’t there to stay.”

Jamie Metzl, executive vice president of the Asia Society, said the onus will be on Pakistan to do a thorough investigation to assess what happened with bin Laden.

“If Pakistan denies any official involvement with bin Laden, it will be difficult to prevent a backlash among members of the U.S. Congress who will believe that Pakistan is playing a double game,” Metzl said.

Metzl also says Pakistan’s fear is that India will increase influence in Afghanistan and surround Pakistan, and that calculation has led Pakistan to keep militants under its sway.

Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, said Pakistan and the United States have “a very funny relationship.”

Pakistan dispatched “troops into the tribal areas at our request” and “took thousands and thousands of casualties trying to fight Taliban and al Qaeda elements,” Rogers said on CNN’s “American Morning.”

“There are some concerns about their ISI being penetrated, their intelligence services being penetrated, but at the same time,” he said, “we’ve got to have them.”

 

-CNN’s Joe Sterling, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott, Zain Verjee, Ted Barrett, Elise Labott, Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers

%d bloggers like this: