Posts Tagged ‘ Abbottabad ’

Obama, Zardari Discuss Strained US-Pakistani Ties

As Reported by The Voice of America

U.S. President Barack Obama called his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, Wednesday to discuss strained bilateral relations and the situation in the region.

A Pakistani statement said the two leaders agreed to take appropriate action to repair the ties between Washington and Islamabad on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit.  It also said President Obama appreciated Pakistan’s effort in the fight against militancy.

President Zardari said the fight against extremism was in Pakistan’s own interest and that it had to fight it to the finish.

The two presidents also agreed on “regular contacts and interaction at appropriate levels for the resolution of issues.”

Ties between the two countries worsened significantly after the May 2 raid by U.S. special forces that killed Osama bin Laden in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad.  The military operation has embarrassed Islamabad, which was not informed beforehand of the raid.

Also Wednesday, Pakistan’s army said it was questioning four more officers about suspected ties to the banned Islamic extremist group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the four army majors are being questioned for suspected links with the group, but have not been detained.

The interrogation of the officers comes a day after the army said it detained Brigadier General Ali Khan over his links to the group.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir is an international Islamist organization that calls for a return to a pan-Islamic Caliphate under Islamic law.  Although the group does not advocate violence, it is believed to have links to militant groups.

Many critics in Pakistan and around the world say the Pakistani military is deeply infiltrated by extremist groups, making suspect its loyalty in the international effort against terrorism.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan has raised questions as to whether members of Pakistan’s military or intelligence knew the al-Qaida leader was hiding out not far from the capital.

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.

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells

By David S Cloud for The Los Angeles Times

In a clear sign of Pakistan’s deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan’s demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan’s failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA’s ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and four others at a compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan’s military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington’s decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan’s security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

“There is lot of discontent within Pakistan’s armed forces with regard to the fact they’ve done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted,” Hussain said. “Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible.”

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army’s 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan’s southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps’ facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

“We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps” at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. “But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets.”

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a “U.S. Special Operations Command Force” was providing the Frontier Corps with “imagery, target packages and operational planning” in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified message that the fusion cells provided “enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations” and were “a significant step forward for the Pakistan military.”

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan’s reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked “dozens” of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.

Pakistan must stop treating India as ‘biggest enemy’: Nawaz Sharif

As Reported by The Economic Times

As Pakistan’s powerful military held out threats to India, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for reappraisal of ties with its neighbour to move forward and progress, saying Islamabad must stop treating New Delhi as its “biggest enemy”.

Sharif, who was earlier involved in talks with India when the Kargil crisis erupted, also sought a probe into the 1999 conflict with India.

The former Prime Minister, who is the chief of main opposition PML-N party, is currently on a three-day visit to southern Sindh province where he made the remarks during an interaction with the media in Karachi yesterday.

He called on the government to also conduct an inquiry into the 2006 killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation and the carnage in Karachi on May 12, 2007 that killed over 40 people who tried to rally in support of then-deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Sharif, whose government was deposed in a military coup led by former President Pervez Musharraf in 1999, reiterated his demand for the budgets of the military and the ISI to be placed before Parliament for scrutiny in line with the practice in other democracies.

He said one of his biggest regrets was not taming the powerful military when he was Prime Minister in the 1990s.

The Parliamentary resolution calling for an independent commission to investigate the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a US raid on May 2 was the first step towards making Parliament a sovereign body, Sharif said.

“We need structural changes and this inquiry has provided an opportunity to move forward and put the country on the right track, correct its direction by putting our house in order, establish the rule of law and bring all institutions under civilian control,” Sharif said.

If the government fixes responsibility for the Abbottabad incident and punishes those found guilty, a message will go out to the world that the people of Pakistan will not brook another embarrassment like the US raid, he said.

Sharif spoke out against the recent alliance forged by the ruling PPP and the PML-Q, both of which are rivals of his PML-N in Punjab and at the centre.

The Power of Pakistani Conspiracy Theories

By Ahmed Rashid for The New Republic

Pakistan is not a failed state, or as yet a failing one, even though it may be in a state of chaos or meltdown. Unlike really failed states, it has a powerful army and a corrupt, run-down, but still functioning bureaucracy, judiciary, and police force. Pakistanis perform outstandingly well in the realm of culture: in the arts, television, fashion design, pop music, and of course cricket. What is missing are adequate social services, such as health care, education, population-control programs, and jobs for a population that is nearing 200 million people. Like many Arab countries, Pakistan faces a youth bulge, with an estimated 60 percent of its people under twenty-five years old.

For these young people without adequate education and employment, who have to deal with a corrupt system that offers no panacea to the poor, joining an Islamic extremist group is not at all unusual. It is the norm. For this reason, a replay of an “Arab awakening” in Pakistan would not lead to the dawn of true democracy, but rather to a mass movement whose leadership would swiftly fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, who would then try to overthrow the state.

What Pakistanis desperately need is a new narrative by their leaders—a narrative that does not blame the evergreen troika of India, the United States, and Israel for all of the country’s ills, that breaks the old habit of blaming outsiders and instead looks at itself more honestly and more transparently. Pakistanis as a nation seem incapable of self-analysis, of apportioning blame according to logic and reason rather than emotion.

Along with the causes that I listed above, the wave of intolerance sweeping the country is also due substantially to the conspiracy theories put about by the ruling establishment and their allies in the media. These various hallucinations paint Pakistan as the victim, maligned and wronged at the hands of foreign powers—especially the United States and India. In the imagination of many Pakistanis, the country is regularly used for some geopolitical aim by the Americans and then discarded in favor of India. These sinister outsiders want to subvert, destroy, and undermine Pakistan—but no logical reason is offered as to why. And few will publicly argue that in fact it is the selective state sponsorship of extremism that is destroying the country.

The narrative that has been peddled by the state for much of the past decade is that Pakistan is being undermined by the presence of American forces in Afghanistan, and that if they were to leave the Pakistani Taliban would go home, the suicide bombings would cease, and everything would go back to normal. The ultimate aim of the United States in Afghanistan—so the narrative continues—is to capture Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, even as India is busily dismembering Pakistan by funding Baloch separatists and the Pakistani Taliban. But if that is so, why on earth did the state allow the revival of the Afghan Taliban in 2003, which has only delayed the American withdrawal from Afghanistan? And for those demanding higher military budgets, the most self-serving conspiracy theory is that Pakistan is locked in an interminable conflict with India, which cannot be resolved.

After Bin Laden Raid, Might US-Pakistan Cooperation Get Better?

By Howard LaFranchi for The Christian Science Monitor

The United States launched a drone strike targeting militants in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan Friday, raising tantalizing questions in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death.

And does the drone strike suggest, despite official Pakistani protests to the contrary, that cooperation between the two countries not only continues but may in fact end up enhanced by Sunday’s operation, which was an embarrassment for Pakistan?

It was impossible to know if the strike, which reportedly killed at least eight suspected militants gathered in a house in North Waziristan, resulted from any information seized Sunday, since word of the strike came from Pakistani military officials.

But the drone attack appeared to bolster the argument, voiced by a wide range of regional and intelligence experts, that the US would be able to use Sunday’s raid to pressure Pakistani officials to side more unequivocally with the US in battling Islamist extremists.

Also on Friday, Yemeni officials reported that a drone strike there killed two Al Qaeda operatives.

Drone strikes have been a contentious issue in US-Pakistan relations. But it is also true that a considerable increase over the past year in US strikes inside Pakistan by the unmanned aircraft has not led to a breach in the bilateral relationship.

“It was proper for Obama not to publicly rub Pakistan’s nose in” the embarrassment of having bin Laden discovered in the country, says Paul Pillar, who now directs security studies at Georgetown University in Washington after a long career in US intelligence. “But in private, they owe us something…. We do expect more cooperation.”

That perspective is riding high in Washington – especially among those security analysts and former officials who consider the relationship with Pakistan, difficult as it is, too vital for the US to simply throw up its hands and leave.

If anything, the bin Laden operation should pave the way for the US to develop closer intelligence and military ties to Pakistan, says Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

An advantage for the US coming out of the successful raid, he says, is that America looks competent and like it may be a good friend to have in the battle with extremism.

“For the people sitting on the fence, it’s like, ‘They [the US] may be really getting good at this, and maybe now is the time to make a decision to get closer,’” said Mr. Hoekstra, speaking Thursday at a discussion on Pakistan at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Dov Zakheim, a former deputy Defense secretary under President George W. Bush, agrees that the enhanced US stature after the raid should be leveraged to win stronger cooperation from countries like Pakistan that have hedged their bets about America’s staying power.

The successful operation against bin Laden “tells the world we’re not a spent power, we’re not a declining power,” said Mr. Zakheim, speaking Tuesday at a Center for the National Interest forum in Washington. “There’s a message there about US military power that is terribly important.”

Few experts in the bilateral relationship believe that Pakistan knew absolutely nothing about bin Laden’s whereabouts. But Mr. Pillar of Georgetown guesses that in the end, it may be learned that Pakistani officials simply didn’t want to know about something that existed right under their noses.

“My guess is … there was no effort to try to find things out,” said Pillar, speaking at the National Interest forum. “My guess would be, it’s not a matter of [Pakistani Army Chief] Gen. [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani or the head of the ISI [Pakistani intelligence agency] knowing who was in that compound – but more the inquiries to find out just never having taken place.”

Kayani this week warned the US that Pakistan would not tolerate another raid like Sunday’s. But similar categorical statements have been made before about US drone attacks, some officials and experts have noted – and the attacks continue, if Friday’s strike is any indication.

Despite the bluster at both ends about the US-Pakistan relationship, a difficult but essential partnership will continue because, with Al Qaeda still in Pakistan and the US still next door in Afghanistan, there is no alternative, some say.

“What’s the alternative strategy in regards to Pakistan? We can’t overreact; we can’t back off the relationship if you don’t have a new strategy,” says Hoekstra, addressing in particular members of Congress who are calling for reduced foreign aid and cooperation. “We’ve got enough relations in the world to worry about right now, rather than adding to the list.”

With Friends Like Pakistan…

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Many people in Pakistan these days are wondering why their nation often finds itself on the wrong side of recent history. First, there is the continued and unjust imprisonment of a Christian Pakistani woman named Asia Bibi who has been languishing in jail for nearly two years. She has been given a death sentence for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad.

Then there was the killing of Salman Taseer, who was the then sitting governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, by one of his own bodyguards for his outspoken support for Asia’s rights and her freedom. Instead of swift punishment and public outcry at his actions, the killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was showered with rose petals by some cheering members of the bar association of Lahore when he came to the courthouse for formal charges of murder. Yes, members of the judiciary were cheering his unilateral action of murdering another human being simply for his support towards a condemned non Muslim woman’s rights.

You can only imagine the warped sense of logic and justice in a country where lawyers cheer the cold blooded murder of an innocent man whose only crime was to come at the aid of a condemned Christian mother of two children.

Fast forward to a few months later, the extremists managed to assassinate the only Christian member of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government when the Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed in a hail of bullets by unknown gunmen who then managed to escape on their motorcycle. Bhatti being a Christian as well as a minister in the government, had campaigned for the release of Asia as well as for the repeal of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan that at help promote a culture of state sanctioned hatred against religious minorities in Pakistan.

The culture of fear and hatred as well as violence against the religious minorities has progressively gotten worse along with the security situation inside the country in the last ten years. If there is anything that has been proven by some of these recent events in Pakistan, it is only that the country has become the undisputed global hotbed of extremism, fanaticism, and Islamic militancy in the Muslim world. It has now morphed into a country where the Wahhabi and Salafi fanatics have successfully used fear and hate to silence the majority moderate Barelvi and Sufi Muslims of Pakistan.

When powerful moderate voices like those of Bhatti and Taseer are silenced despite having heavy protection, how safe can the common man feel about his life if he chooses to speak up against the radicals within Islam? To kill someone is against Islamic belief at its core, unless it is done in self defense but you would be hard pressed to hear that view from the religious fanatics in Pakistan. They have justified killing others over many insane reasons such as making derogatory remarks about Islam or the prophet Muhammad. They also rationalize the killing of someone over a family’s honor, thus honor killings where often young women are killed if they are deemed to have brought dishonor to their family. These radical Islamists will even want someone dead for simply uttering disparaging remarks against Islam or its prophet. It is both ironic and hypocritical to see that the same derogatory remarks towards other figures such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham or other prophets of the Quran do not meet the same outcry nor receive the same impassioned response from the masses as when Islam or its prophet Muhammad are criticized.

The seeds of this current fanaticism fanning the flames of hatred were planted during an earlier conflict, this one involving the Soviets against an under matched adversary in Afghanistan. It was during this time in the ‘80’s when the Pakistani dictator, General Zia ul Haq, was in power and he accepted American aid from the Reagan administration in thwarting the threat from the 1979 Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. At the time, Pakistan’s ISI worked very closely with these “freedom fighters” waging what many thought was a just jihad against a communist foe who disallowed all religious worship. In fact, a good movie to rent right now to put some of these current events in perspective would be Charlie Wilson’s War starring Tom Hanks which details this era of Pakistan-US relations and cooperation against a common enemy in the Soviets.

The trouble now however is that in this current uneasy alliance between Pakistan and the US, there is not a common enemy, at least not as how it is viewed by many in Pakistan, which recently was polled to be the most anti-American nation in the world. Even though radical Islam and fanaticism is as much a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty and prosperity as it is to the United States, India has always been seen as the big threat by its army and rulers. Pakistan has long seen Afghanistan as a country offering it strategic depth in any future wars with India. Thus, its interests in Afghanistan do not coincide with those of the United States.

The Pakistani media also constantly feeds a steady news diet of bombings by the Taliban/Haqqani network as well as any one of the other fill-in-the-blank militants groups seemingly operating freely from within its borders. There is also the regular news reports of US drone attacks and NATO actions in the AfPak region, as well as the all ubiquitous and constant threat faced from India, who is still seething from the Mumbai bombings in 2008, which were blamed on Pakistani trained terrorists. To further add insult to their injury, not a single leader of the Lashkar E Taiba has been convicted in Pakistan for the attacks in Mumbai that claimed 174 deaths and seriously injured several hundred others.

To the Indians, the perpetrator of their version of 9/11 is not an Arab from Yemen named Osama, but rather a whole nation state with whom it has fought three wars in 60 years and who is a long time sworn enemy with which it shares a long border. Too often it is rightly assumed by many that Pakistan will not act against Lashkar E Taiba and other openly anti-Indian militant groups because these groups are seen as a strategic asset for use against India. Only the fear of an all out nuclear war between the two nations by a trigger happy Pakistan placated India enough so that New Delhi did not immediately take military action against Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks.

So this culture of fear from all enemies both foreign and domestic to Pakistan’s sovereignty is now at an all time high within the nation. With a several decade long war on its western border in Afghanistan as well as the constant threat from its arch enemy to the east in India, Pakistan has never felt more threatened or squeezed. This pressure is now only going to get ratcheted higher since last week’s killing of Osama Bin Laden at a compound in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan. Living for five years undetected in the compound, Bin Laden was less than a mile away from the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad, Pakistan’s version of the famed American military college of West Point, when he was killed by a US Navy Seal team.

For the world’s most wanted terrorist to hide in plain sight in such a manner and for so many years, rightly points a lot of suspicion on Pakistan. Long suspected by many intelligence analysts, elements within Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, naturally now attracts a lot of suspicion in their possible involvement in the whole affair. There are strong voices and calls within the US Congress to halt all aid to Pakistan in light of Bin Laden’s death. We certainly can assume that any other country in the world found to be harboring terrorists would already have been labeled a state sponsor of terrorism and would be facing immediate sanctions from the international community. “You are either with us or against us” were the words so famously uttered by then President Bush to Pakistan specifically after 9/11. But due to Pakistan’s importance for a successful pullout from Afghanistan of US troops, as well as its strategic position within the Islamic world, neither side can afford to cut off relations with each other.

Although the Obama administration stopped short of claiming that the corrupt civilian government of Zardari was directly involved in protecting and sheltering Bin Laden, all signs point to complicity to some extent by some segments within Pakistan’s hierarchy. There is near unanimous agreement among many in Washington, and this is true on both sides of the aisle, that there are many sympathizers of the Taliban and Al Qaeda within the ranks of the army and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.

Having driven the Soviets out of the region with the help of militant jihadi groups like the Taliban, no doubt a cadre of army and intelligence officers must have come to espouse the belief that it is in Pakistan’s best interests to have a religiously frenzied force available to use as a weapon against India in a future conflict also. In fact, Pakistan has always had this policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan against India.

The death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan by Special Forces of the American military illustrates just what a duplicitous game the country has been playing with the United States and more importantly with itself. In the war on terror America lost nearly 3,000 citizens in the attacks on 9/11. In that same period stretching the last ten years, Pakistan has lost nearly 31,000 citizens to terrorist attacks by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups. So it has always been in Pakistan’s best interests to fight the militant threat brewing in its borders the last two decades that has claimed so many lives and caused so much instability.

The murders of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti illustrates the dire situation within Pakistani society where many young underprivileged men gravitate towards Osama Bin Laden’s ideology of hate against the US, which is seen by many, as the aggressor in an already very anti-American country. Also western ideas, religious and political liberties, and freedoms, such as those for women in western society, are all seen by the Islamic clergy and religious establishment as being against Islamic doctrine and clashing with the Muslim way of life. Therefore, the madrassahs and the masjids continue to espouse rhetoric against the American and European way of life which is seen as contradicting the teachings of the Quran. Even moderate Muslims and their sites of worship have come under heavy attack by the militants as witnessed by a new strategy of attacking Sufi Muslim shrines and mosques. Pakistan may not want to admit it, but there is a raging war going on within itself for the control of Islam and the attack on moderate Islam by the extremists within the religion.

The Bin Laden killing makes Pakistan seem either highly incompetent about knowledge his whereabouts or at the very least appear to be deeply complicit in sheltering and keeping him hidden while the United States launched the biggest manhunt in US history. At this point, the United States justly feels betrayed and distrustful towards anyone in the Pakistani establishment. After all, how are they to know who now to trust in the army or the civilian government?

It is imperative that Pakistan mount an immediate and urgent investigation that has the full cooperation and assistance of the US so that both countries can discover the source of this support system that Bin Laden has had from within Pakistan. Certainly, some heads do need to roll in Islamabad over this. Whether those resignations be of the current ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, or Zardari and Gilani themselves, as some accountability needs to occur. This is important not just for the sake of American-Pakistani relations, but just as importantly for the benefit of the Pakistani populace who is both deeply embarrassed by breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but also for the intelligence failure by the government of Pakistan at Osama’s whereabouts. Until and unless Pakistan makes this investigation a top priority, USA and Pakistan relations will continue to slide downhill and will mire further in distrust.

Pakistan must realize that in this global war against religious Islamic fanaticism, it cannot continue to speak from both sides of its mouth. Not when everything, including its very existence is at stake. It cannot at once be both a front line ally in the war against terror and receive billions of dollars in US aid, and at the same time, be found to shelter or allow terrorists and militant organizations safe havens and allow them to operate within its territory.

It is up to Pakistan to salvage a quickly deteriorating situation. However at the time of publication of this article, it seems that President Asif Ali Zardari’s government is off to a horrible start in mending fences with the US. First the name and identity of the CIA station chief in Pakistan was leaked by someone in the ISI to members of the local press. This leak compromised his mission and even poses a danger to his life as the anonymity of all operatives is a necessary requirement in intelligence work.

Then later in the day, in remarks given by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to its Parliament, he defiantly stated that neither Pakistan’s army nor its intelligence agency should be suspected by the Obama administration for providing support to Bin Laden. Gilani also went as far as to say that any future unilateral action by the US or any other nation inside Pakistan’s territory will be met with like force. I thought to myself, did he really just that? Did Pakistan just threaten the United States? It is appalling to see the political posturing now being done by the Pakistani government and the long term negative consequences they will have on the nation.

For a country that is receiving nearly $3.5 billion in US aid yearly, these are very tough words that will undoubtedly only make the strained relations between the two countries worse. Pakistan should realize that United States wants to feel that it can trust it to be a full partner in the fight against militancy and extremism. And unless this distrustful and at times, very adversarial relationship changes, the United States cannot help but feel that with friends like Pakistan, it does not need enemies!

-Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer. 

Pakistan’s Man in Washington

 By Chris Frates for Politico

 As Pakistan’s top Washington lobbyist, it’s Mark Siegel’s job to convince U.S. officials not to take out their anger on the country despite the fact that Osama bin Laden spent at least five years living in relative comfort outside Islamabad.

It’s not an easy sell.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum wonder aloud how the world’s No. 1 terrorist could be living in plain sight unbeknownst to the Pakistanis. Siegel has to make the pitch that it’s in America’s national security interests to continue its relationship with Pakistan and to keep the billions of dollars in foreign aid flowing.

It’s a message that Siegel’s firm, Locke Lord, is getting paid good money to sell; the firm brings in almost $1 million a year representing Pakistan.

In addition to Siegel, the firm has about half a dozen lobbyists representing the country including Harriet Miers, an aide to former President George W. Bush and a one-time U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Siegel is uniquely positioned to make the country’s case to skeptics on the Hill. He’s been friends with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s family for almost three decades and has a direct line to Islamabad.

“The Pakistanis insist to me that they were not aware that Osama bin Laden was at that venue. The president made that very clear to me,” Siegel told POLITICO after speaking with Zardari this week. “I think if they had known, they would have been happy to nab him themselves.”

His connection to Zardari isn’t lost on those he lobbies, like House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, who met with Siegel on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t so much what Mark was saying to me on Tuesday, it was what I was saying to him knowing, or feeling confident that it was going to go directly back to the president,” said King (R-N.Y.). “There is a real question of credibility and trust and faith. You can’t have the No. 1 mass murderer of Americans living in plain view in Pakistan all these years while Pakistan is claiming to be our ally and getting $3 billion a year.”

Pakistan, King said, must investigate and credibly explain how bin Laden was able to go undected and demonstrate that its intelligence services and military have not been penetrated by al Qaeda.

“Mark’s basic job is almost to tread water, to keep everything afloat until something can be done,” King said. “I think he’s trying to prevent something from happening too quickly to have the relationship severed. He wants to make sure that he keeps it together and so you can have extensive talks between the two governments.”

But King’s not the only one critical of Pakistan these days.

The Obama administration – which didn’t give its ally a heads up that Americans would be swooping into their country to take out bin Laden for fear of leaks – has been describing the relationship between the two countries with the ambiguous “it’s complicated” tag usually reserved for Facebook profiles.

And Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin told ABC News Thursday that he thinks high-level Pakistani intelligence knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and he has “no doubt” the country knows the location of other top-level targets.

“None of the people on the Hill are suggesting to me that anybody in the civilian government knew that Osama was there,” Siegel said, drawing a distinction between Zardari and the country’s military and intelligence branches.

Tony Podesta, a lobbyist who represents Egypt, knows something of representing a vilified client that is nevertheless a U.S. military ally in an unstable part of the world.

“You want to take it back to the long term strategic interests of the U.S. and to facts rather than supposition. It makes no long term strategic sense for any kind of reckless decisions to be made at this moment,” Podesta said. “That’s where he’ll leave it.”

Siegel has been friends with Zardari’s family for almost three decades, having met Zardari’s late wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 1984 when a mutual friend asked him to host a dinner party for her. The two would go on to write a book together and when Bhutto became prime minister, Siegel represented her government.

This week, Siegel said he has been reminding lawmakers that Pakistan has been a strong ally and that President Barack Obama and other administration officials have praised the country’s cooperation in fighting al Qaeda and terrorism. Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism – 30,000 civilians have been killed by terrorists in the last decade, he added.

Even before this week’s killing of bin Laden, Locke Lord has been active on the Hill. In February and March, firm lobbyists accompanied the Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani on meetings with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, and Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee on state-foreign operations.

Last year, the firm successfully lobbied for $1.5 billion in economic and social aid over the next five years — a sum that has to be reauthorized each year. The firm is also lobbying to secure foreign aid and create duty-free “reconstruction opportunity zones” inside Pakistan’s tribal lands and Afghanistan.

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

Pakistan’s president denies harboring bin Laden

By Nahal Toosi and Zarar Khan for The Associated Press

Pakistan’s leader denied suggestions that his country’s security forces sheltered Osama bin Laden as Britain demanded Tuesday that Islamabad answer for how the al-Qaida chief lived undetected for six years in a large house in a garrison town close to the capital.

But in a nod to the complexities of dealing with a nuclear-armed, unstable country that is crucial to success in the war in neighboring Afghanistan, British Prime Minister David Cameron said having “a massive row” with Islamabad over the issue would not be in Britain’s interest.

A day after U.S. commandos killed bin Laden, reporters were allowed within the 15-foot, barbed-wire-topped walls of the compound for the first time. But the doors of the house were sealed shut and police were in no mood to open them.

Local residents showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that Washington said malfunctioned and was disabled by the American strike team as they retreated. A small servant’s room outside the perimeter showed signs of violent entry and had been briskly searched, clothes and bedding tossed to the ground. Its wall clock was on the floor, the time stuck at 2:20, when the U.S. team would have been on the ground in the early hours of Monday.

Asif Ali Zardari’s comments, in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday, were Pakistan’s first formal response to suspicions raised by U.S. officials and others. Those suspicions could further sour relations between Islamabad and its Western backers at a key point in the war in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was killed close to a military academy in the bustling northwestern town of Abbottabad, not in the remote Afghan border region where intelligence assessments had assumed he had been holed up. That was quickly taken as a sign of possible collusion with the country’s powerful security establishment, which Western officials have long regarded with a measure of suspicion despite several notable al-Qaida arrests in the country since 2001.

“Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact,” Zardari wrote.

Ties between the two nominal allies were already strained amid U.S. accusations that the Pakistanis are supporting militants in Afghanistan and Pakistani anger over American drone attacks and spy activity on its soil. They came to head in late January after a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistan’s, in what Washington said was self-defense.

Senior U.S. officials did not directly accuse Pakistan of collusion, but made it clear they had concerns.

“People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight,” Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan told reporters Monday. “Clearly, this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there.”

Lawmakers were more direct.

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Pakistan’s intelligence and army have “got a lot of explaining to do,” given that bin Laden was holed up in such a large house with surrounding buildings, the fact that its residents took the unusual step of burning their garbage and avoiding any trash collection.

“It’s hard to imagine that the military or police did not have any ideas what was going on inside of that,” Levin said.

Cameron, who has also made supporting Pakistan a major foreign policy commitment, echoed those concerns.

“Those are questions we have to ask, those are questions we will want answered and we will be asking that question of everyone in Pakistan and the Pakistani government,” Cameron told BBC radio before acknowledging the West’s limited leverage against Islamabad.

“We could go down the route of having some massive argument, massive row with Pakistan, but I assess our relationship with Pakistan and it is my very clear view that it is in out interests to work with the government and people of Pakistan to combat terrorism, combat extremism and help development in that country.”

Suspicions were also aired in many Pakistan’s media and on the street Tuesday.

“That house was obviously a suspicious one,” said Jahangir Khan, who was buying a newspaper in Abbottabad. “Either it was a complete failure of our intelligence agencies or they were involved in this affair.”

Pakistan’s security establishment has yet to explain how bin Laden was able to live there undetected, and given that it is rarely transparent about what it does, it might never do so. Asked about the raid, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said it was time to move on.

“The issue of Osama bin Laden is history and I think we do now want to keep ourselves mired in the past,” he told reporters.

U.S. officials have said that Pakistani officials were not told about the early morning helicopter raid until the strike team had killed bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan from where they took off from, citing security reasons.

Many Pakistanis were surprised at how this was possible, especially when initial reports stated that the choppers took off from a Pakistani air base. Some were angry that the country’s sovereignty had been violated — an especially sensitive issue given the unpopularity of America here.

Zardari said it “was not a joint operation” — the kind of which has been conducted in the past against lesser terror suspects in Pakistan — but that Pakistani cooperation, in a general sense, had helped lead them to bin Laden.

“A decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world,” he said.

President Barack Obama also said the country’s anti-terror alliance had helped in the run-up to the operation, but did not thank Pakistan when he announced the death of bin Laden.

The death has raised fears of revenge attacks, both in Pakistan — which has seen hundreds of suicide attacks by al-Qaida and its allies since 2007 — and internationally. The U.S Embassy said its missions in Pakistan would remain closed to the public until further notice.

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