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US, Pakistan and never having to say you're sorry

Published Jun 20, 2012 11:57am


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A man speaks on his mobile phone while another rests his head on his lap on the bumper of an oil tanker used to transport Nato fuel supplies to neighbouring Afghanistan in Karachi.—AP Photo
A man speaks on his mobile phone while another rests his head on his lap on the bumper of an oil tanker used to transport Nato fuel supplies to neighbouring Afghanistan in Karachi.—AP Photo

WASHINGTON: Pakistan says it wants an apology from the United States in order to jump-start a number of initiatives between the two countries that would help the hunt for al Qaeda in Pakistan and smooth the end of the war in Afghanistan.    Pakistan wants the US to apologise for a border incident in November 2011 in which the US killed 24 Pakistani troops in an air strike.

The US has expressed regret for the incident, a diplomatic step removed from an apology, and said it was a tragic case of mistaken identity, in which each side mistook the other for militants and both sides erroneously fired on the other.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton even explored the possibilities of an apology with a Pakistani diplomat in a London meeting but then backed off when the Pakistanis insisted the apology be timed for maximum political impact.

The Pakistanis have put the apology at the top of a long list of demands to address what they see as insults to national pride and sovereignty—from the Navy Seal raid onto Pakistani territory last year that killed Osama bin Laden to the steady US drone strikes on Pakistani territory. A lot of these demands are now up in the air with the news Tuesday that Pakistan's high court had dismissed the prime minister, a move that could usher in months of turmoil in the country's government.

From the US point of view, Pakistan has not done enough to stop attacks on US troops carried out by the Taliban and members of the Haqqani clan.

So the two nominal allies are at a standoff. A look at what that means for the war and counter-terrorism efforts

Supply routes

Pakistan shut its borders to Nato re-supply convoys heading to Afghanistan because of the deadly November incident. The US and Nato had been trucking supplies in and out of the Afghan war zone from the Pakistani port of Karachi. The Pakistanis charged the US $500 per truck. Because the US has not apologised for the air strike, Pakistan has closed that route, and supplies to US and Nato troops have been taking a northern route that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says is costing an extra $100 million a month now and could grow as the US starts to withdraw equipment in advance of the 2014 troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Negotiations have stalled over reopening the routes, mostly over the apology, and it's clear the Pakistanis plan to charge double or more to use their route if they reopen it.

Military aid  

For the Pakistanis, the impasse over the apology means other longstanding issues cannot be resolved, like the resumption of all US security aid to Pakistan. Pakistan still receives roughly $1.2 billion in annual security assistance, but last summer the US halted or suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid—and reimbursements to Pakistan for helping secure Afghanistan's border—over another dispute. That one was over Pakistan's irritation that the US didn't brief its leaders before launching the successful raid against bin Laden, who had been living for some time in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbotabad.

In retaliation, Pakistan expelled US military trainers, and the US cut off some aid.

Intelligence sharing

Fewer US and Pakistani military officers are sharing training or intelligence. They previously jointly operated mobile US intelligence centres throughout the Pakistani tribal areas, monitoring together information coming from US drones, which helped Pakistani troops track militants bent on killing inside Pakistan.

Now unilateral US drone strikes continue to bite at al Qaeda targets, with a recent strike killing al Qaeda deputy Abu Yahya al-Libi, while Pakistan is on its own when it comes to hunting the branch of the Taliban that sends suicide bombers to hit Pakistani military and civilian targets. Joint US-Pakistani efforts at one time helped take down dozens of targets that were dangerous to both sides, including mastermind of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

CIA operations

CIA officers once were able to roam fairly freely, often working together with Pakistan's intelligence operatives to go after targets in joint raids. Now, CIA officers are closely tracked and often harassed, and the Pakistani intelligence chief, who had been invited by the CIA, postponed his scheduled visit last month to the US.

The bitterness has taken on a personal tone. President Barack Obama kept Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari waiting in a hallway at the Nato summit in Chicago and had him meet with Clinton instead of a leader-to-leader meeting. And Panetta, during a visit to Pakistan's arch rival, India, made a joke before an Indian audience about keeping the Pakistani government in the dark over the bin Laden raid.


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Comments (28) Closed

Kaka Jun 20, 2012 04:06pm
You seem to know the hidden secret. I think you should share with us and tell us what actually happend.
Cyrus Howell Jun 20, 2012 03:04pm
Any soldier (of any country) who has been a combat infantryman knows what happened at Salala. Civilians don't seem to have a clue. Pakistan is asking for something that is not real.
salman ahmad Jun 20, 2012 05:42pm
Mr. Cyrus the supply routes are not real either why do Americans keep bugging us to open them. Pay up or go home !
Khalid Masood Jun 20, 2012 05:28pm
Everyone, including soldiers and non-soldiers know that US forces fired at Pak-Army post for nearly three hours and now trying to show they were innocent.
paki Jun 20, 2012 05:16pm
Right on the spot!! Nothing can be more perfect than this statement!! US believes that Pakistan was playing double game and US did it intentionally...BINGO!!!!!!1
Usman Rashid Jun 20, 2012 05:13pm
Yes, anyone irrespective of being soldier or not knows what happened at Salala, US forces fired for nearly three hours while clearly knowing what they were doing and now trying to act innocent - US is responsible for killing Pak soldiers and we will not forgive this.
Maryam Khalid Jun 25, 2012 06:26pm
we'll survive the same way as we did when the unjust division of india flunged a moth-eaten country into our faces.
TruthBeTold Jun 20, 2012 04:00pm
so 30,000 + civilians (Women and Children included) have given their lives for a war that wasn't there's at the time. They died in the name of YOUR ego, defending YOUR Freedom, even though your freedom has never actually been threatened. At any rate, all those Pakistanis Dead , thousands of Armed Forces members also have lost their lives fighting to defend you as much as them and this is the RESPECT you give? Friendly fire killed 24 Soldiers, apologize for their deaths and move along. But why would you apologize? You don't even care for their lives, why would you when you don't give two cents for the lives of your own in uniform? You keep asking Pakistan to DO MORE. Would you be so quick to send troops into Detroit? or Chicago ?? places where more people die than in Afghanistan? You would be hesitant too as you have REAL lives to deal with, REAL people who are on the front lines, not sitting on their comfortable behinds 14,000 Miles away in SAFETY. From All of the SANE world to the Ignorance of You
Saadia Jun 20, 2012 08:35pm
Am I reading it right? Someone bring my glasses please.... "...U.S. officials noted for their likability and desire to get along with everyone" Wow that's a news. LOLZ
Saadia Jun 21, 2012 02:41pm
Like US BELIEVED that Iraq had WMDs and US did it intentionally... US and her beliefs...
Talha Magsi Jun 20, 2012 07:54pm
Pakistan's army chief general Ashfaq Kayani also refused to meet the top U.S defence offical, when U.S defence secretary made appalling comments about pakistan providng safe heavens to terrorists on its soil.
Ash Jun 23, 2012 10:50am
Wow .. thats a great question. Double standard ???
Gulbaz Mushtaq Jul 03, 2012 07:11pm
We will survive Mr. Birman!!! We have all potential to survive. You (the US) please go to your home and leave the world on its own. Leave the world with peace. Why are you eating up every country's resources. Aren't you? Yes you are. SO please stop this drama.
Solomon2 Jun 20, 2012 01:46pm
Why don't Pakistanis ask themselves what they might have done to earn such an attitude from U.S. officials noted for their likability and desire to get along with everyone?
shabut Jun 20, 2012 11:42pm
The questions that Pakistanis must ask is, why is it that it has always brought instability, insecurity, and destruction of their country for being an American ally. The history proves it, when ever Americans befriended with Pakistan it only brought misery to the country and nothing else. How can Americans be trusted when they openly lied to their own nation and the whole world about the WMDs in Iraq and as a result killed millions and millions of innocent people in that country through extreme bombardment. How can Americans be trusted when they let bin Laden run away from Tora Bora hills? One must ask the Americans if they are claiming that Osama was living in Pakistan for the last five years then where the hell was he prior to that? Finally the Americans must ask their leaders, why is that an Ally who has always been on the American side ever since her independence in 1947 has turned against them?
David1 Jun 21, 2012 03:29am
You are right. The likability and a desire to get along was all that the past despotic regimes in Pakistan wanted. But now there is democracy in Pakistan and you know Democratic governments work differently.
kafi Jun 22, 2012 02:30pm
It was not "ask" it was simple as "either you are with us or against us". US does not need to "ask" Pakistan for anything, it was a courtesy that was extended for good manners. Is that so difficult for Pakistanis to understand
irfan Jun 21, 2012 05:07am
What Pakistan asking is a legitimate appology of an action which violated all standard operating procedures between the two militaries. The party who violated the SOPs are US/NATO troops who were trying to hide their actions from Pak Millitary (case of mistrust). To remind the readers, Salala incident was NOT the first incident of its kind that can be overlooked. There have been more than a few cross border NATO attacks on the Pak Military border in past five years.
kashif Jun 21, 2012 05:50am
Dear It was americans who ask for help from pakistan back in 2001
ISI_Zindabad Jun 21, 2012 05:34pm
Pakistan will be at peace when NATO withdraws from Afghanistan. We will fight terrorists using our own formulas (which worked fine in Swat and South Waziristan for the most part). NATO presence radicalizes certain segments on both sides of the border and it is counter-productive. In fact, this is what I have told you also on Pakistan Defence Forum (where you regularly post other such rubbish)
Essjay Jun 21, 2012 08:13am
Should Bangladesh break all links with Pakistan till Pakistan does not say "sorry" for atrocities in 1971?
ABC Jun 22, 2012 12:23am
I guess Obama is saying I dont care about you. I will do what is good for the world as a whole
Saif Jun 22, 2012 03:44pm
Go Ahead.
Birman Jun 22, 2012 05:20am
If they go home, how will you survive? The aid too will vanish.
guest Jun 22, 2012 05:23am
But why did the US/NATO troops fired at Pak soldiers? Were they trying to let some 'friendly' Taliban pass? Playing double game doesn't help.
saeed Jun 22, 2012 01:56pm
I guess, now it is hurting US, when pakistan is saying we dont care about you either.
Agha Ata Jun 23, 2012 01:21am
It all depends on one question: What is more important for each of them, the apology or the relationship?
(Dr.) B.N. Anand Jun 23, 2012 08:23am
Sir, it is indeed a very sad situation for Pakistan not only to have been at war of words with the superpower but also be a centre of judicial pro activity which has resulted in changing the PM of the country. The political situation remains fluid as no one knows about the fate of the new PM if the judiciary keep up with their stance of a case related with the trial of the President of the country. The superpower, in the meantime, going along with its goal of continuing war in Afghanistan whether supplies are being allowed or not by Pakistan and to continue with the drone attack , again whether Pakistan likes it or not. I feel this impasse of apology as demanded by Pakistan will have to be broken some day. But it will happen only when USA wants it and at its own terms. Is there any feasible and agreeable alternative to this? The sulking attitude of Pakistan will surely not help. Apparently in this whole scenario, the country looks to be in bind both because of internal politics as well as because of 'who cares' attitude of the superpower. That is indeed a very trying time for the country. BNA