By carrying out a drone attack that killed seven suspected militants and injured four others near Angoor Adda in South Waziristan just a day after a four-hour long meeting between the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US has given out a firm message that it is in no mood to scale down its CIA-led operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In the meeting held in Washington, Pakistan had put the pre-condition of limiting the scale of drone attacks for resuming intelligence cooperation with the US in the war against terror, which was stalled after the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore in January. According to the recently released report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more then 900 were killed in drone strikes in 2010.Since Davis’ arrest, Pakistan’s ISI had been hoping to use it as a bargaining chip to renegotiate the CIA-ISI relationship carved through the one-sided opening provided by General Pervez Musharraf to the Americans in the aftermath of 9/11 to come out of international isolation he was facing for removing a democratically elected government through a military coup. It was inevitable that this arrangement would be questioned given its lopsided nature, giving a huge margin to the American. Some would argue it was the need of the hour; if Pakistan had not complied it would have faced severe consequences. Ten years down the line, with Musharraf out of the equation, efforts are being made to balance that relationship and put it on a proper footing. The question is: will this happen?
Given the US experience and outreach in our region, it may be done ostensibly to satisfy their hosts, but it is not likely to happen in reality. Following Davis’ arrest, it had been revealed that there are around 300-350 CIA agents working on Pakistan’s soil. Although they have supposedly left the country to secure the release of Raymond Davis, is there a guarantee they would not be replaced? It is hard to imagine that the camel in the Arab’s tent will leave voluntarily. The latest drone attack is a clear indication of the US thinking. Pakistan has lodged a protest with the US ambassador to Pakistan and public demonstrations have been held from time to time against predator strikes whipping up rhetoric that Pakistan should stop logistical support for the US forces stationed in Afghanistan, but this issue is not so simple. It seems unlikely that the US would rollback its presence or operations as long as it sees them serving its interests in the region. Though Pakistan once closed border crossing at Torkhum in response to incursion by NATO helicopter into Pakistan’s tribal areas that killed three Pakistani soldiers in a military check post, stranding hundreds of containers and fuel tankers carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan, in reality Pakistan does not have this option. Given its history as a client state, Pakistan’s economy is heavily dependent on aid from Washington. Pakistan is caught between a rock and a hard place and it would take a real test of wits of Pakistan’s security establishment to find a way out. In fact, the two sides are locked in an uneasy embrace where they do not trust each other but need each other’s help. Presently, a tug of war is going on between the two. Only time will tell which way things would settle. – Dailytimes