Army threatens to ‘review’ cooperation
* Wants US to reduce its troops inside Pakistan to ‘minimum essential’ levels
* Warns India any attempt to copycat US strike in Abbottabad will be responded ‘very strongly’
* Admits intelligence shortcomings regarding Osama’s presence in Pakistan
By Saeed Minhas
RAWALPINDI: Pakistan military on Thursday warned that any action similar to the Abbottabad operation, violating the country’s sovereignty, will warrant a review of the level of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, and demanded it to reduce the strength of its troops in the country to the “minimum essential” levels.
The military also warned India in categorical terms that any misadventure on its part to copycat the US surgical strike in Abbottabad would be responded “very strongly”.
Presiding over the 138th Corps Commanders’ Conference at the General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaz Parvez Kayani made it clear that any similar action would warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the US. Kayani, along with all the formation commanders, had a detailed discussion on a one-point agenda – the Abbottabad operation and its implications on military-to-military relations with America. Independent sources, however, revealed that current socio-political scenario of the country was also given due consideration during the discussion.
The military hierarchy admitted its shortcomings in developing intelligence on the presence of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, but also commended the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for its past achievements by highlighting the fact that its services for tracing al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates had no parallel.
The highest forum of armed forces was informed that around 100 top al Qaeda operatives had been killed or apprehended by the ISI, with or without the help of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It was also informed that in the case of Bin Laden, the CIA had developed intelligence based on initial information provided by the ISI, but the former did not share further development of intelligence on the case with the ISI, contrary to the existing practice between the two agencies.
It remains an open question that there still does not exist any formal protocol between Pakistan and the US to exchange any intelligence information, and since November 2001 the ISI and CIA had continued the practice of intelligence sharing until certain revelations by the WikiLeaks broke the cords between them and eventually brought them at loggerheads in recent times.
An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said that an investigation had been ordered into the circumstances that led to this situation (intelligence breakdown and negligence of the ISI to spot Bin Laden). The corps commanders were also informed about the decision to reduce the strength of US military personnel in Pakistan to the minimum essential levels. The exact number of US military personnel in Pakistan is not known.
As regards the possibility of a similar hostile action against the country’s strategic assets, the forum reaffirmed that “unlike an undefended civilian compound our strategic assets are well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place”.
Military officials confirmed that no one should remain under any illusion about the capability of Pakistan army to safeguard its vital and strategic assets.
Taking serious note of the assertions made by Indian military about conducting an operation similar to the one carried out by the US, the forum made it clear that “any misadventure of this kind will be responded to very strongly”.