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US-Pak security ties at lowest ebb since post-9/11 alliance in 2001: Report

June 16, 2011 - Washington

The security relationship between the United States and Pakistan has sunk to its lowest level since both nations agreed to cooperate after the 9/11 attacks, endangering counterterrorism programs that depend on the partnership, according to US and Pakistani officials.

Both sides say that further deterioration is likely as Pakistan's military leadership comes under unprecedented pressure from within its ranks to reduce ties with the US, The Washington Post reports.

Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani "is fighting to survive. His corps commanders are very strongly anti-U.S. right now, so he has to appease them," a US official said on the condition of anonymity because of current sensitivities.

After years of sporadic tension between Washington and Islamabad, the immediate cause of the rupture was the US' unilateral military raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, located minutes from Pakistani military installations.

In recent weeks, Pakistanis have escalated their demands that the US stop its covert campaign of drone strikes on Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban bases in the country's tribal areas, and at least some US personnel are being withdrawn from a base in the southwest part of the country used by the CIA to launch the unmanned aircraft, the report said.

A US Special Operations training program for Pakistan's tribal defence force has largely ceased, said the report, adding that visas have been withheld from CIA and military personnel assigned to Pakistan programs, according to officials from both countries.

Pakistan is a key player in the administration's war strategy in Afghanistan, but US officials are under similar pressure at home to take a tough line.

Many in Congress see bin Laden's presence in Pakistan and the fallout from the raid as additional proof that the Pakistanis are unreliable partners who refuse to fully commit to fighting insurgents and do not deserve US assistance or trust, the report said.

US military and economic assistance to Pakistan- although only a small fraction of the overall cost of the Afghanistan war- has totalled nearly 21 billion dollars since 2002, it added.

US officials say they could continue without Pakistan's cooperation, launching the drones out of bases in Afghanistan. But there is a fear that the instability and high feelings in Pakistan could provoke an even more extreme public and military backlash.


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