Pakistani Army Chief Warns U.S. on Another Raid

The head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Thursday that he would not tolerate a repeat of the American covert operation that killed Osama bin Laden, warning that any similar action would lead to a reconsideration of the relationship with the United States.

In his first public reaction to the American raid four days ago that left many Pakistanis questioning the capacities of the nation’s army, General Kayani did not appear in person, choosing instead to convey his angry message through a statement by his press office and in a closed meeting with selected Pakistani reporters.

The statement by the army’s press office said, “Any similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States.”

General Kayani had decided that the number of American military personnel in Pakistan were to be reduced “to the minimum essential,” the statement said.

He did not specify the exact number of American personnel asked to leave Pakistan, and it was not clear that the level was below what Pakistan had previously demanded in the recent fallout after a C.I.A. contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis.

Then, the Americans were told that the number of Special Forces soldiers involved in a training program would have to be reduced to 39 from 120, that C.I.A. contractors would no longer be allowed to stay in Pakistan, and that other American officials who appeared to be working for the C.I.A., but whose jobs were not clearly defined, would have to leave, too.

But clearly the Bin Laden raid has compounded Pakistani anger, and worsened relations still further.

Calling the American raid a “misadventure,” General Kayani told the Pakistani reporters that another similar raid would be responded to swiftly, a promise that seemed intended to tell the Pakistani public that the army was indeed capable of stopping the Americans trying to capture other senior figures from Al Qaeda.

General Kayani’s blunt warnings came after he met with the top commanders of the Pakistani Army at their monthly conference at the army headquarters at Rawalpindi, a gathering of the top 11 generals. The meeting was devoted to the fallout of the raid that has severely embarrassed the Pakistani military, leaving the nation’s most prestigious institution looking poorly prepared and distrusted by its most important ally.

The official statement acknowledged “shortcomings” in developing intelligence on the presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan, a reference to the fact that the Qaeda leader was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad, a midsize city about two hours from the capital that is home to a top military academy.

The C.I.A. had developed intelligence on Bin Laden together with the Pakistanis in the early going when the Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, had provided “initial information.”

But the C.I.A. did not share further development of intelligence on the case with the ISI, “contrary to the existing practice between the two services,” an account that generally conformed with what American officials said in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.

Pakistani officials and Western diplomats have described General Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of ISI, as seething with anger at the American go-it-alone action.

In an earlier account Thursday, the foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, sought to dispel domestic criticism of Pakistan’s lack of response to the raid, saying that two Pakistani F-16 fighter jets were airborne as soon as the Pakistan military knew about the operation. But, by that time, he said, the American helicopters were on their way back to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bashir, speaking at a press conference, said that the Americans had used technology to evade Pakistani radar.

Alternatively combative and defensive, Mr. Bashir said Washington should abandon the idea that Pakistan was complicit in helping Bin Laden hide.

But Mr. Bashir did not elaborate, saying only that the ISI had a “brilliant” record in counterterrorism.

Defending the Pakistani Army, the fifth largest in the world, Mr. Bashir said, “Pakistani security forces are neither incompetent or negligent about the sacred duty to the nation to protect Pakistan.”

But after withering criticism at home and abroad about how and why the Pakistani security forces could allow Bin Laden to be in Pakistan, the initial reaction here to Mr. Bashir’s appearance was mixed.

One of Pakistan’s best-known television journalists, Kamran Khan, who is regarded as a supporter of the military, dismissed the performance. “They have no answer,” Mr. Khan said. “We have become the biggest haven of terrorism in the world and we have failed to stop it.”

A retired ambassador and newspaper columnist, Zafar Hilaly, who has called for a public inquiry into Pakistan’s military, said that Mr. Bashir erred in seeming to ask for the world’s sympathy by saying 30,000 Pakistani civilians and more than 3,000 soldiers had lost their lives combating terrorism.

“The world wants to know whether we are effective,” Mr. Hilaly said.

In his press conference, Mr. Bashir declined to answer a question about whether the American raid was legal or illegal, but implicitly rapped the Obama administration, saying, “It’s important for the international community to be mindful of the fact cooperation is a two-way street.

“To demand cooperation is one thing; to demand cooperation on terms that are civil is important.”

Apparently in response to comments by American officials that the United States decided not to share details in advance with Pakistan because of a lack of trust, Mr. Bashir said, “All we expect is some decency and civility, especially in the public domain.”

The Pakistani authorities first learned of the operation when one of the American helicopters involved in the raid crashed at the Bin Laden compound.

“Immediately our armed forces were asked to check whether it was a Pakistani helicopter,” Mr. Bashir said. Although Abbottabad is home to a major military academy and three military regiments, he said none of these institutions required sophisticated defenses that could have detected the impending raid.

Once the helicopter had crashed, it took 15 minutes for military personnel to reach the site, he said.

The general headquarters of the Pakistani military in Rawalpindi was then informed of the American helicopter’s crash, he said. The authorities learned that Bin Laden had been killed in the raid from surviving members of his family, he said.

Pakistan received the first official word about from the United States about the covert operation when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, called General Kayani, head of the Pakistani Army, at about 3 a.m. Monday Pakistani time, Mr. Bashir said.

That call took some time to arrange, he said, because “secure sets” were needed. Admiral Mullen was the first to raise the issue of Pakistan’s sovereignty in the call, Mr. Bashir said. But he did not specify what exactly Admiral Mullen said. Later, President Obama telephoned the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan would endure, the foreign secretary said, because “we share strategic convergence.”

Mr. Bashir complained indirectly about the American raid as an infringement of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but withheld the stern reprimand he issued two days ago in a statement that said Pakistan would not stand for another covert raid by the United States.

At the news conference, he said, “This matter of sovereignty and violation of sovereignty raises certain legal and moral questions that fall in the domain of the United Nations.”

The New York Times

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