WASHINGTON, Dec 10: US President Barack Obama is believed to have asked for an early report on Nato air strikes on Pakistani military posts, which have further strained already tense relations between the two allies, diplomatic sources told Dawn.
Soon after the Nov 26 attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the Obama administration asked the US Central Command to conduct an independent inquiry to determine what caused the attacks. The initial inquiry report is due on Dec 23 but President Obama wants a report before the scheduled date “to help defuse the tensions as soon as possible”, said a senior diplomatic source.
Other sources pointed out that while the US State Department was pressing for an early resolution of the differences that have plagued Washington’s relations with Islamabad, the Pentagon was taking a tough position on this issue.
Separately, a Washington think-tank warned in a report released during the weekend that the two countries could have a major military confrontation in 2012.
“We are continuing our intensive engagement including through the recent meeting between Ambassador (Cameron) Munter and Foreign Minister (Hina Rabbani) Khar,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
“Obviously we are both trying to roll up our sleeves and get back to work together.”
Ambassador Munter met Foreign Minister Khar in Islamabad on Friday and “discussed the current status of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the US”, said an official statement issued after the meeting.
Although the statement gave no details, diplomatic sources in Washington say the US and Pakistan were working on a set of proposals for “rebuilding their ties”, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani proposed last week. “Each side is believed to have submitted its own version of how to rebuild the relationship and are now looking for common grounds”, a source said.
In an earlier White House briefing, spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the US Embassy in Islamabad had urged President Obama to apologise to the Pakistanis over the border deaths. The State Department endorsed this request.
The Pentagon, however, views the issue in the perspective of the US-led war in Afghanistan and on Friday the US military chief Gen Martin Dempsey suggested tackling Pakistan’s clout in Afghanistan.
Soon after he finished his remarks at a Washington think-tank, an MQM delegation met the general and urged him to expedite the US military investigation into the Nov 26 incident.
The MQM also asked the general why were the Americans reluctant to offer an apology to Pakistan, although they too agreed that the attack was carried out by US and Nato forces.