Kayani “is fighting to survive,” said one U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of current sensitivities. “His corps commanders are very strongly anti-U.S. right now, so he has to appease them.”
Outspokenness to top officers is virtually unheard of in the strict Pakistani military hierarchy, and open criticism of Kayani “is something no Pakistani military commander has ever had to face before,” another U.S. official said. “Nobody should underestimate the pressure he’s now under.”
Tension over U.S.-Pakistani relations is building on the American side, as well. Lawmakers on Wednesday expressed outrage that a number of Pakistanis who had helped gather intelligence for the CIA about Osama bin Laden’s compound have been arrested.
Among them is Maj. Amir Aziz, a doctor in the Pakistani army’s medical corps who lived next to the bin Laden residence in Abbottabad for several years and has not been seen since shortly after the raid by U.S. commandos in early May that killed the terrorist leader.
Officials said Aziz was among several Pakistanis paid to keep track of and photograph those entering and leaving the compound, without being told whom they were looking for.
“Their families don’t have any idea where they have been taken,” said one neighbor in Abbottabad’s Bilal Town subdivision. “Nobody knows what they had done.”
A U.S. official said the CIA tried to get the doctor and other informants out of harm’s way before their arrests, offering to relocate them. But they refused and “thought they would be okay,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. A Pakistani military spokesman said reports that an officer had been detained were “totally baseless.”
After years of sporadic tension between Washington and Islamabad, the immediate cause of the rupture was the raid on bin Laden’s compound, located minutes from Pakistani military installations. Pakistan was not informed before the operation, a level of secrecy that left its military and intelligence services angry and humiliated.
In recent weeks, Pakistanis have escalated their demands that the United States stop its covert campaign of drone strikes on al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban bases in the country’s tribal areas, and at least some U.S. personnel are being withdrawn from a base in the southwest part of the country used by the CIA to launch the unmanned aircraft. A U.S. Special Operations training program for Pakistan’s tribal defense force has largely ceased. Visas have been withheld from CIA and military personnel assigned to Pakistan programs, according to officials from both countries.