WASHINGTON: As CIA chief Leon Panetta returned from a tense visit to Pakistan, the US media reported on Monday that the civilian and military establishments in the country differed with each other on relations with the United States.
While the civilians wanted closer ties with the US, the military was reluctant to give up its influence with the Taliban, said Bruce Riedel, a South Asian specialist who helped formulate the Obama administration’s current Af-Pak policy.
“The Pakistani army continues to believe that parts of the Jihadist Frankenstein it created are useful assets and is not prepared to dismantle those assets,” Mr Riedel, a former CIA officer and National Security Council staff member, told a US media outlet.
Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, told Bloomberg that the military’s stance was also linked to talks in Washington about withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
“It’s a vicious circle,” she said. “The more the US talks about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and the more pressure that comes from Capitol Hill to speed up that withdrawal, the less cooperation we’re likely to get from Pakistan.”
The Washington Post reported that Pakistan’s army and intelligence chiefs told Mr Panetta they were not willing to reverse a decision to cut the number of US troops in their country.
Mr Panetta, nominated to take over as defence secretary next month, visited Pakistan this week, his first trip since the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden and severely damaged ties between the allies.
US counter-terrorism experts, while talking to the New York Times, confirmed media reports that Mr Panetta confronted Pakistani intelligence officials face to face with what the United States believed was evidence of collusion between Pakistani security officials and militants staging attacks in Afghanistan.
This involves two alleged IED factories in North and South Waziristan which produce explosives used against US troops in Afghanistan. Diplomatic sources in Washington, however, told Dawn that Mr Panetta’s visit – although not very successful – had led to a better understanding on two issues, intelligence-sharing and the presence of US intelligence and security personnel in Pakistan.
“Both sides realise that intelligence-sharing has yielded positive results in the past and it should continue,” a source said.
Similarly, the US has started “providing details of their security and intelligence personnel in Pakistan”, the source added.
Pakistan, however, did not show much interest in a US proposal for joint military operations, arguing that it would be counter-productive and would increase negative feelings against the army and the United States.
Pakistan also refused to make any specific commitment on launching a military operation in North Waziristan, a top priority on the US agenda.