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Pak Army chief facing colonels' coup from rabidly anti-American Corp commanders?

June 16, 2011 - Islamabad

Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from top generals and junior officers since the May 2 US raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to Pakistani officials.

General Kayani, who has led the army since 2007, faces such intense discontent over what is seen as his cozy relationship with the United States that a colonels' coup, while unlikely, was not out of the question, said a well-informed Pakistani who has seen the general in recent weeks, as well as an American military official involved with Pakistan for many years, The New York Times reports.

The Pakistan Army is essentially run by consensus among 11 top commanders, known as the Corps Commanders, and almost all of them, if not all, were demanding that General Kayani get much tougher with the Americans, even edging toward a break, according to Pakistanis who follow the army closely.

Washington, with its own hard line against Pakistan, had pushed General Kayani into a defensive crouch, along with his troops, and if he were pushed out, the United States would face a more uncompromising anti-American army chief, the Pakistani added.

To repair the reputation of the army and to ensure his own survival, General Kayani made an extraordinary tour of more than a dozen garrisons, mess halls and other institutions in the six weeks since the May 2 raid on bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, the report said.

His goal was to rally support among his rank-and-file troops, who are almost uniformly anti-American, according to participants and people briefed on the sessions, the report added.

In response to pressure from his troops, General Kayani had already become a more obstinate partner, standing ever more firm with each high-level American delegation that has visited since the raid to try and rescue the shattered American-Pakistani relationship, Pakistani and American officials said.

As part of his survival mechanism, General Kayani could well order the Americans to stop their drone program completely, said the well-informed Pakistani who met with General Kayani recently.

The Pakistanis have already blocked the supply of food and water to the base used for the drones, a senior American official said, adding that they were gradually "strangling the alliance" by making things difficult for the Americans in Pakistan.

The anger at the Americans was now making it more difficult for General Kayani to motivate the army to fight against the Pakistani Taliban in what is increasingly seen as a fight on behalf of the United States, former Pakistani soldiers said.

"The feeling that they are fighting America's war against their own people has a negative impact on the fighting efficiency," said Javed Hussain, a former Special Forces officer in the Pakistani military.

According to the report, discipline has become a worry, as has an open rebellion in the middle ranks of officers, particularly as rumours circulate that some enlisted men have questioned whether General Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha should remain in their jobs.


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