As ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha arrives here for talks with CIA Director Leon Panetta, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has demanded that the �United States steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan�. In a front page report, the New York Times quoted informed sources in Islamabad as saying on Monday that Gen Kayani had also �demanded that US put on hold CIA drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan, a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies�. The newspaper says the demand that the US scale back its presence is the immediate fallout of the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis, a CIA security officer who killed two men in broad daylight, according to Pakistani and American officials. The reductions were personally demanded by Gen Kayani, said the Pakistani and American officials, who requested anonymity while discussing the sensitive issue. At the same time, President Asif Ali Zardari warned that the US-led war in Afghanistan was �seriously undermining efforts to restore Pakistan�s democratic institutions and economic prosperity�. In an interview with Britain�s Guardian newspaper, he said that during his visit to Washington next month he would ask the Obama administration to share drone technology so the air strikes in Fata could be carried out under �Pakistani flag�. The Pakistani army firmly believes that Washington�s real aim in Pakistan is to neutralise the nation�s nuclear arsenal, which is now on a path to becoming the world�s fifth largest, said the Pakistani official closely involved in the decision on reducing the American presence. On the American side, the NYT report said, frustration has built over the Pakistani army�s �seeming inability� to defeat a host of militant groups, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda, from tribal areas despite more than $1 billion in American assistance a year to the country�s military. In a rare public rebuke, a White House report to Congress last week described the Pakistani efforts against the militants as disappointing. Raymond Davis was involved in a covert CIA effort to penetrate one militant group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, which allegedly has long ties to Pakistan�s military and intelligence establishment, has made deepening inroads in Afghanistan, and is perceived as a global threat. The CIA had demanded that Mr Davis be freed immediately, on the grounds that he had diplomatic immunity. Instead, he was held for 47 days of detention and, the officials said, questioned for 14 days by ISI agents, infuriating American officials. He was finally freed after his victims� families agreed to take some $2.3 million in compensation. Another apparent price, however, is the list of reductions in American personnel demanded by Gen Kayani, according to the Pakistan and American officials. These include a 25 to 40 per cent cutback in the number of US Special Operations soldiers, most of them involved in training the paramilitary Frontier Corps in northwest Pakistan. American officials said last year that the Pakistanis had allowed a maximum of 120 Special Forces soldiers to operate in Pakistan. The Americans had reached that quota, the Pakistani official said. On top of reducing American personnel on the ground, Gen Kayani has told the Obama administration that its expanded drone campaign had gotten out of control, a Pakistani official said. The drone campaign, which is immensely unpopular among the Pakistani public, had morphed into the sole preserve of the United States, the Pakistani official said, since the Americans were no longer sharing intelligence on how they were choosing their targets. The Americans had also extended the strikes to new parts of the tribal region, like the Khyber area near Peshawar. �Gen Kayani would like the drones stopped,� said another Pakistani official who met the military chief recently. �He believes they are used too frequently as a weapon of choice, rather than as a strategic weapon.� Short of that, Gen Kayani was demanding that the campaign return to its original, more limited scope and remain focused narrowly on North Waziristan, reportedly the prime militant stronghold. The request by Gen Kayani to cut back the number of Special Operations forces by up to 40 per cent would result in the closure of the training programme begun last year at Warsak, close to Peshawar, an American official told the NYT. In his Guardian interview, President Zardari pointed out that some members of Congress and the US media did not know what they were talking about when it came to Pakistan. Referring to a statement by New York Congressman Gary Ackerman that Pakistan was about to �go broke or collapse�, the president said: �If that assertion were true, the interventionist policies of the US and other foreign governments in South Asia would be a significant contributory factor.� Diplomatic observers in Washington noted that these were the harshest remarks by a Pakistani president about America in �a long time� and showed a serious deterioration in bilateral relations.
By: Dawn News