U.S.-Pakistani relations may be perennially tense, but the alliance has enabled the U.S. to train Pakistani forces and launch drone strikes in an effort to prevent militants in northwestern Pakistan from attacking American troops in Afghanistan or coordinating terrorist attacks overseas. According to The New York Times, however, the relationship may be teetering on collapse.
The Times is reporting that General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's military chief, has asked 335 C.I.A. officers and Special Operations forces--including all C.I.A. contractors--to leave the country. Kayani has also called for an end to drone strikes and requested more information about C.I.A. covert operations (U.S. officials have not confirmed the Times report). In interviews with the Times, Pakistani and American officials pointed to Pakistan's arrest of C.I.A. contractor Raymond Davis--who killed two Pakistanis in January--as the proximate cause for Kayani's demands. Davis was released in March after the victims' families received so-called "blood money," sparking anti-American protests in Pakistan.
But the Times and other news outlets also cite more fundamental reasons for Pakistan's growing unease with U.S. counterterrorism operations in the country:
- Desire to Protect Nuclear Program: The Pakistani army thinks Washington's underlying motivation in Pakistan is to dismantle the country's large nuclear arsenal, a Pakistani official tells the Times.
- Anger Over Drone Strikes: The U.S. has expanded its drone strikes--which are deeply unpopular in Pakistan--as it loses confidence in the Pakistani military's ability to root out the Taliban and al Qaeda in the country's tribal areas, the Times explains, and Kayani wants the program to end or be curtailed (Kayani forcefully condemned a drone attack the day after Davis was released that killed tribal leaders with ties to the Pakistani military). As NBC's Andrea explains on Twitter, "Pakistan sees Raymond Davis case as wedge to get what it's wanted: fewer drone attacks less CIA presence."
- Sense That U.S. Is Leaving Pakistan in Dark: A Pakistani official tells the Pakistani newspaper Dawn that the the country's military and intelligence agency, the I.S.I., were offended when they learned of Raymond Davis' covert mission in Pakistan. While the U.S. normally informs Pakistan of people like Davis, the official explains, "in this case, and in hundreds of other similar cases, the whole procedure was set aside and we were bypassed." The U.S. now doesn't even share intelligence with the Pakistanis about how it chooses its targets for drone strikes, according to the Times. Pakistan also suspects that it's being excluded from negotiations for an Afghan peace deal, The Gurdian notes.
- Concern about Economic Toll of 'War on Terror': In an interview with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, The Guardian notes that Pakistani intelligence officials estimate that the U.S. war on terror has cost the Pakistani economy around $68 billion since 2001. The Guardian doesn't elaborate on how the officials arrived at that figure, but Zardari gives clues, explaining that Pakistan has invested more in security than commerce and that the country is contending with rising fuel prices and the collapse of industry in the tribal areas.
- Response to Pakistani Public Opinion: Many Pakistanis, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan explains, feel that the U.S. is criticizing Pakistan's instability "while directly contributing to it with its actions along the Afghan border."
Some analysts are skeptical, however, about whether Pakistan's demands will actually result in a reduced C.I.A presence in the country. In response to a tweet about Pakistan asking the U.S. to cut C.I.A activity, The Nation's Jeremy Scahill wrote, "You mean PK tells US it must sharply reduce the number of times its operatives get caught." And Kalsoom Lakhani at Changing Up Pakistan doesn't think the U.S. will stop its drone strikes because of vague Pakistani complaints.