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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Uncertain Times for U.S.-Pakistan Military Ties

Council on Foreign Relations

March 6, 2008
Author: Jayshree Bajoria

The U.S. military appears to be redoubling its efforts to cooperate with Pakistani troops and crack down on terrorist groups in the country’s tribal areas. Reports of suspected U.S. missile strikes (AFP) and newly revealed plans to send American military trainers to work with Pakistani paramilitary forces highlight the new push. The New York Times reports that, in the week before Pakistan’s February 18 parliamentary elections, American officials struck a new deal with President Pervez Musharraf and the new head of Pakistan’s military, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, which grants American forces a freer hand to carry out secret air strikes. The United States believes such a strike killed a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Laith al-Libi, in northwest Pakistan last month. Experts say the killing may have helped convince Pakistani authorities to move ahead with further covert operations, while still refusing to allow any overt U.S. involvement or presence of U.S. combat troops in Pakistan.

But now Washington is worried the change of guard in Islamabad may curtail its efforts to act more aggressively against suspected terrorists. Pakistan’s recent election winners have said they want to pursue peace talks with militants (IHT). Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party forms a part of the new parliamentary coalition, asked the United States to clearly define its war on terror (Dawn). U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Islamabad that talks with the militants have not worked in the past (BBC). Robert Grenier, the former director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, said in a recent CFR meeting that when it came to things like the operation of Predator drone aircraft, a democratically elected government “will be more zealous in guarding Pakistani sovereignty, or being seen to be guarding Pakistani sovereignty.” Grenier added, however, that the army will “resist micromanagement from any government.”

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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