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US prepares for a curtailed relationship with Pakistan

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* US officials believe tied with Pakistan have been seriously damaged and an alliance can survive only in a limited form


WASHINGTON: US officials believe the country’s relationship with Pakistan has been seriously damaged and a counterterrorism alliance can survive only in a limited form, The New York Times reported late Sunday.


Citing unnamed US and Pakistani officials, the newspaper said that officials acknowledge this deterioration will complicate the ability to launch attacks against extremists in Pakistan and move supplies into Afghanistan.


US-Pakistani relations took a serious hit last month after a series of US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan.


A joint US-NATO investigation concluded that a disastrous spate of errors and botched communications led to the deaths. Pakistan has rejected the findings.


The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, the report said.


United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, the paper noted.


“We’ve closed the chapter on the post-9/11 period,” the paper quoted a senior US official as saying. “Pakistan has told us very clearly that they are re-evaluating the entire relationship.”


American officials say the relationship will endure in some form, but that the contours will not be clear until Pakistan completes its wide-ranging review of the November incident in the coming weeks, the paper pointed out.


The Obama administration got a taste of the new terms immediately after an American airstrike killed 26 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border last month. Pakistan closed the supply routes into Afghanistan, boycotted a conference in Germany on the future of Afghanistan and forced the United States to shut its drone operations at a base in southwestern Pakistan.


Mushahid Hussain Sayed, the secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, an opposition political party, summed up the anger that he said many harboured: “We feel like the US treats Pakistan like a rainy-day girlfriend.”


Whatever emerges will be a shadow of the sweeping strategic relationship that Richard C Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, championed before his death a year ago. Officials from both countries filled more than a dozen committees to work on issues like health, the rule of law and economic development.


All of that has been abandoned and will most likely be replaced by a much narrower set of agreements on core priorities — countering terrorists, stabilising Afghanistan and ensuring the safety of Pakistan’s arsenal of more than 100 nuclear weapons — that Pakistan will want spelled out in writing and agreed to in advance. With American diplomats essentially waiting quietly and Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes on hold since November 16 — the longest pause since 2008 — Pakistan’s government is drawing up what Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called “red lines” for a new relationship that protects his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. afp

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