Pakistan Calls For U.S. To Reduce Military Presence

Following the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, seen here on May 3, Pakistan has called for the U.S. to reduce its military footprint in the country.

Following the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, seen here on May 3, Pakistan has called for the U.S. to reduce its military footprint in the country. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images

Pakistan's army says it wants the United States to reduce its military footprint in that country. The decision is an apparent protest of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. operation on the al-Qaida chief's compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad is now the subject of a Pakistani army investigation.

Thursday's statement was the first by Pakistan's army since revelations that bin Laden had lived down the road from the country's elite military academy in a town filled with retired officers. How he could have gone undetected for years is the embarrassing question reverberating from Islamabad to Washington.

The decision that the Americans were to reduce the strength of their military personnel to the "minimum essential" came after a daylong emergency meeting of the corps commanders, convened by the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

The general, whom no visiting American dignitary dares miss, heads the army in a country that has revered its armed forces. But Pakistan's most prestigious and powerful institution became an object of ridicule this week.

In a written statement Thursday, the army admitted "shortcomings" in developing intelligence on the presence of bin Laden.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefs the media about the killing of Osama bin Laden at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on May 5.  Bashir said that the accusations that Pakistan's intelligence agency colludes with al-Qaida are false and cannot be substantiated. i i

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefs the media about the killing of Osama bin Laden at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on May 5. Bashir said that the accusations that Pakistan's intelligence agency colludes with al-Qaida are false and cannot be substantiated. Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefs the media about the killing of Osama bin Laden at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on May 5.  Bashir said that the accusations that Pakistan's intelligence agency colludes with al-Qaida are false and cannot be substantiated.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefs the media about the killing of Osama bin Laden at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on May 5. Bashir said that the accusations that Pakistan's intelligence agency colludes with al-Qaida are false and cannot be substantiated.

Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also told a news conference that speculation that elements within Pakistan's CIA counterpart, the ISI, were providing cover to bin Laden was "absolutely wrong."

"In fact — and this is what has been admitted even by the U.S. government — that some of the leaks that led to the identification of this particular place resulted from the information-sharing with the ISI by CIA," Bashir said.

The army has also come under sharp criticism at home for not preventing the American raid. Many Pakistanis view the U.S. commando operation on their soil as a flagrant violation of their sovereignty.

Washington has reserved the right to act again against high-value terrorist targets, but Pakistan's army said Thursday that "any similar action will warrant a review" of its military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.

It also warned archrival India, which may take a page from the U.S. action, "that any misadventure" would meet a strong response.

"Make no mistake: The nation as a whole and our state institutions are determined to uphold the sovereignty of the country and safeguard our security," Bashir says.

The army felt compelled to state that "the nation's strategic assets" — a reference presumably to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal — are "well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place."

Former Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry says the Pakistani army is deeply frustrated by the way the Americans have disregarded what he says has been the understanding — that operations on Pakistan's territory must be done by Pakistani forces.

"Here, the U.S. military violates that particular red line or the understanding that has existed and perhaps ends up embarrassing Pakistan to the utmost," Chaudhry says.

Chaudhry says politics may be a motive for the U.S. going it alone. That way, he says, the Americans would not have to share any trophy with Pakistan. But, he asks, if it comes at the price of severely damaged relations with a key ally, "Was it worth it?"

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