WASHINGTON: US military trainers will be invited back into Pakistan “as early as April or May”, but the nation has ruled out allowing CIA drones back into the country, American Fox News reported late on Friday night.
Relations between the two nations have been at an all-time low since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in air strikes by Nato in November.
A committee of the Pakistani parliament is reviewing the nature of the country’s relationship with the US, and politicians are expected on Jan 30 to deliver a list of conditions for cooperation to resume.
The stipulations will include no covert CIA or military operations on the ground in Pakistan, and no unauthorised incursions into its airspace. Drones, which are the CIA’s biggest weapon against militants hiding in the tribal belt dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan, “can never return”, a senior Pakistani official told Fox News.
“They will never be allowed back, at Shamsi or anywhere else,” the official added, referring to the base from which many of the unmanned aerial vehicles were deployed before the Nato attack in November.
In return, Pakistan would allow back US military trainers, including special forces teams, and a resumption of close cooperation with the CIA in targeting militants who use the Pakistani side of the border as a safe haven and breeding ground for extremism.
It would also reopen the Torkham and Chaman border crossings into Afghanistan, which have been closed to Nato supply convoys since the attack.
“After this is presented to the Americans, a lot could happen very quickly,” the senior official told the TV channel.
Islamabad also would reopen its doors to high-level US diplomats after an embarrassing snub this week to President Obama’s special envoy to the region, Marc Grossman, who was denied his request to visit Pakistan in the middle of his tour of South Asia.
Pakistan says it wants working conditions with Washington that provide “respect for the nation, its sovereignty --- both its soil and airspace — and equal terms of cooperation”. Government members have said publicly that there has never been equality in the relationship.
“We understand the government of Pakistan is still working on its review of US-Pakistan relations, and we have not yet received a formal report from the government,” Pentagon spokesman Capt John Kirby said in an emailed statement.
“Decisions about the level of Pakistani commitment to our military relationship are obviously theirs to make, and we respect that."
“We continue to desire a close military relationship with Pakistan. We both have a fundamental interest in cooperation, in eliminating Al Qaeda’s ability to operate from Pakistan, and in ensuring a stable Afghanistan and stable region.”
Pakistan, especially its military, has been reeling since US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid in May.
The raid, which sparked nationwide protests and stoked further anti-Americanism, and civilian casualties caused by drone attacks are considered by Pakistan to be flagrant violations of its sovereignty by an ‘arrogant’ American government.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said this week that ties “are on hold until we start re-engaging”, but Pakistan is now motivated by the US elections to move forward swiftly in rebuilding trust between the countries. Islamabad fears that if foundation stones are not laid before presidential campaigning begins in earnest in the summer, it will not be able to renegotiate with Washington until the middle of next year.
But the senior official suggested there might be a benefit to waiting.
“We would prefer it if there was a Republican government again,” he said. —Dawn monitoring desk