Pakistan army cancels U.S. talks over security checks

(Reuters) – Pakistan’s army said on Wednesday it scrapped talks with U.S. military officials after a military delegation sent to Washington had to go through “unwarranted” airport security checks.

Mistrust exists between Pakistan and the United States even though they have been allies for decades.

Security at U.S. airports has been especially stringent since the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, with scores of passengers complaining they had been singled out for checks due to their “Middle Eastern” or “Muslim” appearance.

The Pakistani delegation was visiting the United States at the invitation of the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The delegation … was subjected to unwarranted security checks at Washington airport by the U.S. Transport Security Agency,” the army said in a statement.

The delegation was later cleared and U.S. defense officials expressed regret over the incident. The statement did not give the date of the visit.

“However, as a result of these checks, military authorities in Pakistan decided to cancel the visit and called the delegation back,” the army said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said talks were underway to possibly reschedule a visit.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said U.S. security officials detained an army brigadier who was part of the 8-member delegation at Dulles International Airport after a passenger complained he did not feel safe around the delegation.

The newspaper said the brigadier was removed from the flight and detained along with other members of the delegation after they disembarked, and were later released.

In March, a Pakistani parliamentary delegation called off a two-week U.S. trip, sponsored by the State Department, after lawmakers were tagged for further screening at Washington’s airport as they were en route to New Orleans.

Washington sees Pakistan as a vital ally in the fight against militancy and wants it to crack down on Afghan Taliban militants who cross the border to attack U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Mistrust between the two countries involves a range of issues, from security cooperation to how aid is delivered. Anti-American sentiment runs high in Pakistan.

The U.S. has given billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan since it joined its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001 – Reuters