US military officers trickle back into Pakistan
WASHINGTON, May 31: The United States has sent a handful of military officials back into northwestern Pakistan in a sign the two countries may be able to achieve some low-level military cooperation despite a string of confrontations that have left Washington’s relations with Islamabad in crisis.
Two US officers have been sent in the last few weeks to Peshawar, a US official said, restoring after a months-long absence a US military presence to the region.
The officers will seek to foster communications between western troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani soldiers as Nato struggles to clamp down on militants who threaten Nato’s battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The number of American military in that key region dropped to zero after US aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in late November. Nato labelled the border incident an accident but it enraged Pakistanis and sent already tense ties with the United States into a tailspin.
“I wouldn’t call this a watershed moment (but) it’s not insignificant that this is happening,” the US official said on condition of anonymity.
The picture is less encouraging on cooperation between US and Pakistani intelligence, which several American officials said remained dire as Pakistani officials resist easing restrictions on issuing visas to US intelligence personnel.
In retaliation for the border deaths, Pakistan also shut down ground supply routes crucial for keeping US and Nato soldiers equipped in Afghanistan, and clamped down on US military personnel operating in Pakistan.
“At a strategic level, the relationship is still at a very rough place,” the official said. “There’s a lot more we want to do to improve it, but (the trainers’ return) is an important sign that at least in some areas we’re getting a healthy sense of normalcy.”
US and Pakistani talks aimed at reopening those routes — which becomes more important as Nato nations prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan — appear to be deadlocked over how much supply trucks must pay on their way through Pakistan.—Reuters