The security relationship between the United States and Pakistan has sunk to its lowest level since the two countries agreed to cooperate after the September 11, 2001, attacks, endangering counterterrorism programs that depend on the partnership, according to US and Pakistani officials. Both sides say further deterioration is likely as Pakistan’s military leadership comes under unprecedented pressure from within its ranks to reduce ties with the United States.
The Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, was jeered last month by fellow officers who demanded in a town-hall-style meeting that he explain why Pakistan supports US policy. Kiyani “is fighting to survive,” said one US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of current sensitivities. “His corps commanders are very strongly anti-US right now, so he has to appease them.” Outspokenness by battalion commanders is virtually unheard of in the strict Pakistani military hierarchy, and open criticism of Kiyani “is something no Pakistani military commander has ever had to face before,” another US official said. “Nobody should underestimate the pressure he’s now under.” Tension over US-Pakistani relations is building on the American side, as well.
Lawmakers on Wednesday expressed outrage that a number of Pakistanis who had helped gather intelligence for the CIA about Osama bin Laden’s compound have been arrested. Among them is Maj. Amir Aziz, a doctor in the Pakistan Army Medical Corps who lived next to the bin Laden residence in Abbottabad for several years and has not been seen since shortly after the May 2 raid by US commandos that killed the terrorist leader. Officials said Aziz was among several Pakistanis paid to keep track of and photograph those entering and leaving the compound, without being told whom they were looking for.