The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 27      July 25, 2011

Washington squeezes Pakistan,
continues drone assassinations
(front page)
Tensions are rising between Washington and Islamabad, with the Barack Obama administration demanding that Pakistan’s rulers take more aggressive military action against the Taliban along border areas with Afghanistan and further inside Pakistan itself.

The U.S. government on July 11 suspended $800 million in military aid to Pakistan—one-third of the nearly $2 billion it annually provides. The move comes after Pakistani authorities expelled 120 U.S. military “trainers,” limited the ability of U.S. diplomats and other officials to get visas, and announced restrictions on some CIA operations on its territory.

“If Americans refuse to give us money,” said Pakistani defense minister Ahmed Mukhtar, then “the government or the armed forces will be moving from the border areas. We cannot afford to keep military out in the mountains.” Pakistani soldiers patrol some 1,100 checkpoints along the Afghan border.

The already strained relations have deteriorated further since a U.S. Navy SEAL raid May 2 killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, without the prior knowledge of Islamabad. In fact during the course of the raid, SEAL commandos were instructed by the Obama White House to fight Pakistani police and troops if they interfered with the operation. Pakistan’s parliament strongly condemned the raid as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty.

The Obama administration has been pressing without much success for Islamabad to launch a military offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region, near the border with Afghanistan, where the Haqqani network and other al-Qaeda and Taliban groups are based.

Washington is also stepping up aerial drone assassination attacks. Four missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan July 12 killed at least 42 people, reported Associated Press. This included three strikes in North Waziristan and an attack in the Dremala village of South Waziristan.

Several days earlier, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the media that the Pakistani government was responsible for the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad. “It was sanctioned by the government,” Mullen said July 7. Mullen’s remarks, noted BBC News, “are the most explicit to date in a downward spiral in recent U.S.-Pakistan relations.”

Shahzad wrote for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International. Shortly before his death he authored an article on al-Qaeda infiltration of Pakistan’s navy. He was subsequently kidnapped near his home in Islamabad. His body was found two days later.

In a recent visit to Afghanistan, Obama’s new defense secretary, Leon Panetta, stirred up controversy with remarks about the administration’s drawdown plans. Panetta told reporters that Washington will have 70,000 troops in the country through 2014. “For at least the next two years, we’re going to have a pretty significant force in place,” he emphasized.

But Obama, in announcing withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012, promised to continue drawing down the remaining 70,000 troops more rapidly.

Panetta’s aides scurried to correct his comments. “He was not here making new policy,” stated Doug Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. “He was not here differing with the president.”  
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