Pakistan blocking supplies from reaching remote U.S. base used for the C.I.A.’s drone program

The Telegraph

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad

16 Jun 2011


Pakistan is blocking food and water from reaching a remote base used by the US for its secret drones programme, severely hampering counter terrorism strategy, according to a senior American official.

Both sides are now briefing against the other as hostility between the two countries grows more intense – and more open – day by day.

Pakistan’s military has not recovered from the humiliation of failing to detect an American raid last month that killed Osama bin Laden and has reduced or halted co-operation with the US in protest.

A senior American official told The New York Times that supplies had been choked off to the airbase and that they were gradually “strangling the alliance” by making things difficult for the Americans in Pakistan.

The drones programme, although never publicly acknowledged by the US and repeatedly condemned by Pakistan, is credited with killing a series of high-profile targets.

In 2009, Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistan Taliban was killed by a missile strike in South Waziristan. And two weeks ago, Ilyas Kashmiri, a key al-Qaeda commander was reported dead after a drone attack.

However, Pakistani military and civilian leaders have long criticised the raids, despite privately giving consent.

Last week, the country’s senior Army officers released a statement riddled with anti-American rhetoric and threatening action against the drones.

“As far as drone attacks are concerned, Army has repeatedly conveyed to all concerned that these are not acceptable under any circumstances. There is no room for ambiguity in this regard. Government is making necessary efforts in this direction.”

The generals have already ordered more than 100 American military trainers to leave the country.

Cyril Almeida, a commentator with The Dawn newspaper, said Pakistan’s “battered” military was reacting in time-honoured fashion by shifting the focus to external threats and imagined enemies in Washington.

“These leaks are really putting pressure on the military,” he said. “What we are seeing is the Army high command move even further to the right and further into the embrace of anti-American elements.”

At the same time, American officials and politicians have upped the pressure, complaining that Pakistani co-operation remains unreliable despite a huge US aid package worth more than $20 billion since 2001.

They have denounced Pakistan’s arrest of several Pakistani informants who provided intelligence to the CIA about bin Laden’s compound, and accused the country’s intelligence services of protecting militant groups.


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