U.S. officials say the November airstrike occurred when a joint U.S. and Afghan patrol requested air support after coming under fire. They say they checked with the Pakistani military first to see whether Pakistani troops were in the area.
But Pakistan says the Americans gave the wrong coordinates, knew the location of the Pakistani base that was attacked and continued attacking for a considerable length of time even after the Pakistanis asked them to stop.
More than 20 NATO fuel tankers were torched in Pakistan. (Dec. 9)
Javed Ashraf Qazi, head of the Pakistani Senate defense committee, said his panel supports the military’s plan to bolster air defenses but added that any deployment would be selective.
“You cannot deploy these systems on each and every outpost. Sometimes these posts are attacked by militants, and you may lose these weapons,” Qazi, a retired army general and former head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, told the Associated Press.
The relationship between the United States and Pakistan suffered a blow in January, when a CIA contractor shot two Pakistanis to death on the streets of Lahore. It was damaged again by the bin Laden operation in May. Underlining the depth of ill-feeling, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen accused Pakistan’s spy agency of supporting a deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in September.
But the latest incident has sent relations into such a spiral that many observers wonder whether they can be rescued.
“It is almost like a point of no return,” said columnist and military expert Ayesha Siddiqa. “There is little left in the relationship.”
Pakistan’s military has been demanding a much smaller CIA footprint in the country and more information on what U.S. intelligence agents are doing here; more control over and information on drone strikes; and a greater role for Pakistan in Afghan reconciliation efforts. But those steps would require a certain level of trust, which at this point is conspicuously missing.
Observers here are skeptical about the chances of the two sides ever really patching up their differences, with future cooperation likely to be more limited and more covert. They say the two countries no longer share the same strategic goals in the region.
“This used to be the most pro-American army in Asia, but it is mind-boggling how things have turned around in the last 10 years,” said defense analyst and former helicopter pilot Ikram Sehgal. “In fact, the relationship has broken down.”
Special correspondents Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad and Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.