US attempts to rebuild its relationship with Pakistan appear to be stuck on the issue of a US apology for killing 24 Pakistani border troops in November last year.
US officials visited Pakistan on Friday for talks on rebooting the relationship, but left without any agreement. A statement on Saturday from the president’s office said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told the visiting US officials that Washington needed to help Pakistan reach “closure” over the killings of the soldiers on the Afghan border by following recommendations by the Pakistani parliament.
The parliament has asked Washington to apologize for the incident. The US has expressed regret, but has declined to specifically say it is sorry.
Pakistan shut US and NATO supply lines to Afghanistan to protest the deadly US air strikes, cut most contacts with Washington and ordered US drone aircraft to leave a base in the south of the country. The US wants Pakistan to reopen the supply lines, preferably ahead of a May 20-21 summit of NATO leaders in Chicago.
The US Department of Defense has said US forces — given what information they had available to them at the time — reacted in self-defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon from the direction of the Pakistani border in the Nov. 26 incident.
The visit by Mark Grossman, who is Washington’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was his first to Pakistan since the November incident.
The border deaths were the latest in a series of incidents over the past 18 months that severely damaged US-Pakistani relations. The killing of two alleged Pakistani assailants by CIA security officer Ray Davis in Lahore in January last year and the US Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, without Pakistani permission, also contributed to the decline.
In other news, a US official on Saturday said the Pakistani intelligence services provided the US with information that was helpful in learning more about the compound where bin Laden was killed.
“The Pakistanis didn’t provide any tips on bin Laden, but they provided certain information that aided the United States in developing the American intelligence picture on the compound,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
“This was an American operation,” the official added.
The official’s comment came in response to a Washington Post report on Saturday that said Pakistan’s intelligence service believes it deserves credit for helping US intelligence agencies to locate bin Laden’s hideout.
“The lead and the information actually came from us,” an unnamed senior official with Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) told the Post.
“Any hit on al-Qaeda anywhere in the world has happened with our help,” the Post quotes one of the Pakistani intelligence officials as saying.
The other official, who said he had been intimately involved in the hunt for senior al-Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, said the ISI provided the CIA with a cellphone number that eventually led to an al-Qaeda courier using the nom de guerre of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the paper said.
The officials said that in November 2010, they turned the number over to the CIA, along with information that it had last been detected in Abbottabad, the report said.
The ISI said it did not know then that the number was al-Kuwaiti’s, but that CIA analysts did, without, however, relaying that information back to the Pakistanis, the Post reported.