Pakistan demands U.S. cut drone strikes, CIA agents
WASHINGTON — Pakistan has told the United States to sharply cut the number of CIA agents and special forces operating there, and to rein in drone strikes against militants, a US newspaper said Monday.
The New York Times said the order highlighted the near collapse of US-Pakistani cooperation, the result of a row that erupted when CIA officer Raymond Davis shot and killed two men who tried to rob him in January.
The authorities in Islamabad were asking a total of about 335 CIA officers, contractors and special operations forces to leave the country, according to a Pakistani official involved in the decision who was quoted by the daily.
Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani personally ordered the reductions, it added, citing unnamed US and Pakistani officials.
The news came as Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful military spy agency, met in Washington with Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
George Little, a CIA spokesman, told AFP the talks were productive and that relations between the agency and the ISI remained on a “solid footing.”
The Pakistani official involved in the decision to cut back the US presence told the newspaper that Pakistan suspects that what Washington really wants to do is to neutralize the Muslim country’s nuclear arsenal.
The daily said Kayani has asked for a 25-40 percent reduction in the number of US Special Operations troops, most of whom train the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the northwest tribal region which is home to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
It also said Pakistan had set a quota of 120 Special Forces soldiers operating in Pakistan, a figure it says has been reached.
Pakistan is also demanding Washington remove all US contractors used by the CIA as well as CIA agents who were involved in all missions that the ISI had been unaware of, the Pakistani official was cited as saying.
Davis was reportedly involved in a covert CIA assignment to penetrate the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.
A Pakistani official who met with the army chief said “Kayani would like the drones stopped,” after complaining that the Obama administration’s expanded drone attacks had run out of control.
If they cannot be stopped, Kayani demanded, then the campaign should return to the more limited score they were used for originally and target areas within North Waziristan, the paper said.