New rules of engagement between Pakistan, US

Exactly two weeks after Osama bin Laden’s killing, Islamabad and Washington have agreed to work together on any future action against “high value targets” in Pakistan, in a new anti-terror arrangement that seeks to address concerns from both sides.

The new rules of engagement between the two allies were agreed upon on Monday after talks between Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders and US Senator John Kerry.

Although a statement issued after the meeting confirmed that new rules had been discussed, details of the promised cooperation are unclear.

However, a senior military official was quick to dispel the impression that the accord was meant to allow American boots on Pakistani soil. “The arrangement is that the two countries will share intelligence on high value targets. The Central Investigation Agency (CIA) will pinpoint such targets and Pakistani forces alone will take action,” he told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity.  But Senator Kerry interpreted it differently to a select group of journalists, saying he was pleased the Pakistani government has committed “to explore how increased cooperation on joint operations and intelligence sharing can maximise our efforts … to defeat the enemies we face.”

Official sources privy to Kerry’s discussions with President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief General Kayani said talks were ‘intense and candid’.

They said Kerry placed two options on the table: work with the US or else Washington will resort to unilateral action anywhere in Pakistan to take out targets.

For its part, Pakistan’s top leadership conveyed their concerns and apprehensions on certain issues. In a separate meeting on Sunday evening, General Kayani apprised Senator Kerry about the ‘intense feelings in the rank and file of the Pakistan Army over the Abbottabad incident’.

But Senator Kerry defended the raid. He insisted that secrecy surrounding the operation was strictly for reasons of operational security, not due to mistrust in the Pakistani leadership. “Even in the US government, very few people knew about it. My goal in coming here is not to apologise for what I consider to be a triumph against terrorism of unprecedented consequence,” Kerry said. “My goal has been to talk about how we manage this important relationship.”

During the discussions, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Gilani to discuss the post-Bin Laden situation. Gilani left the meeting to attend the call where he suggested a joint strategy so that Pakistan can assume ownership of the war, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister House. Clinton informed the prime minister that US special envoy for the region Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Mark Morrel will shortly visit Pakistan.

Kerry said that Pakistan had agreed to return the tail of a stealth US helicopter that American commandos destroyed during the Bin Laden raid.

The Pakistani leadership conveyed to Senator Kerry that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism and the whole nation was united in ridding the country of the menace. “Bin Laden was an enemy of Pakistan. Al Qaeda had declared a war on Pakistan and launched a wave of suicide attacks against its people. Pakistan is now being hit by a spate of revenge attacks,” said a joint statement.

It was agreed that US and Pakistan must recognise and respect each other’s national interests, particularly in countering terrorism and promoting reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

It was agreed that all tracks of US-Pakistan engagement need to be revisited to create a clear understanding on carrying the cooperation forward in a mutually-beneficial manner.

The statement said Pakistan’s leadership welcomed the clear affirmation by Senator Kerry that US policy has no designs against Pakistan’s nuclear and strategic assets. Kerry said he was prepared to personally affirm such a guarantee.

Pakistan agreed to take several immediate steps to underscore its seriousness in renewing the full cooperative effort with the US. But the statement did not elaborate on what steps Pakistan
will take.

The Express Tribune

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