CIA Ops Strain US-Pakistan Ties

Washington's refusal to sign a 'memorandum of understanding' detailing its operations and sharing intelligence has Islamabad up in arms.

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Gabe Kahn.,

Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani

Officials in Islamabad want a detailed agreement spelling out US rules of engagement in Pakistan, but Washington has so far refused to commit to specifics and tensions are running high.

Following domestic furor and public embarrassment over the covert US targeted killing of Al Qaeda terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan'a Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is demanding a 'memorandum of understanding' detailing the number of CIA operatives in the country, notification before US drone strikes, intelligence gathered, and a written promise about Pakistan's role if Al Qaida's new leader, Ayman Al Zawahri, is found in Pakistan.

"There can be no more gray areas," said a senior Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak publicly about diplomatic matters.

The spike in troubles between Islamabad and Washington this year began with the February killing of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a CIA-contracted American working in the country without Pakistan's knowledge. Davis pleaded self-defence but it took weeks of wrangling before he was released in exchange for so-called ‘blood money' paid to the dead men's relatives.

The Bin Laden raid further incensed the Pakistani military, which saw it as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, and it now feels it needs the agreement to ensure it would be involved in — or be able to stop — any similar US attacks in the future.

The agreement would also allay fears in Islamabad that the CIA is operating behind Pakistan's back, and shore up the military's reputation, which was badly battered when the US helicopters slipped into Pakistan air space undetected for the Bin Laden attack.

But former and current American officials say the US will not commit any specifics to paper because it could limit the flexibility of its operations.

Instead, the US is preparing a broad statement of principles that could be completed in the coming weeks.

"There will not be a [memorandum of understanding] covering all aspects of the relationship with annexes spelling out permitted behaviors," said a senior US official.

"There is, however, the possibility of a brief bilateral statement of principles that would identify common interests and goals."

Another senior US official told reporters Pakistan would not get all the information it wants about US intelligence operations, adding it already receives much more than Washington provides most other countries.