As Pakistan changes, should U.S. policy?
The US is increasingly out of sync with Pakistan's newly-elected government, say analysts.
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"We consider it a very, very important position and building and maintaining a relationship with not only the government but the military," says Capt. James Graybeal, a spokesman for Central Command. "We are very committed to finding the right person."Skip to next paragraph
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Recent dissension between the US and Pakistan centers around the latter's negotiations of a peace accord along the border in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.
American officials, who have long ruled out negotiation with terrorists, fear that Islamabad may be talking to militant leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud, who runs a terrorist network suspected of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December.
Similar accords in 2005 and 2006 meant to reduce violence and stop cross-border attacks proved to be unenforceable and actually resulted in a spike of attacks in Afghanistan, American officials say.
The US holds that negotiations should only be held with tribal elders, not militants, and must be enforceable. "If these preconditions are met and they are included in the agreement, then I don't think there is any disagreement that that is part of the way forward," says the senior military official.
After experiencing an initial wave of goodwill from Pakistan following 9/11, the administration has become generally frustrated with the Pakistani government's inability to address security along its borders.
Last week, several members of Congress expressed concern that some of the billions of dollars in aid sent to Pakistan as part of the war on terror has been diverted, some perhaps to troops in Kashmir along the troubled border with India. The US has withheld some aid.
A Government Accountability Office report released last week also indicated that some reimbursement claims can't be easily verified, sparking outrage on Capitol Hill that the US is wasting its money with its South Asian ally.
The US has spent over $10 billion since 2001 in aid to Pakistan, about half of which is reimbursement for conducting operations against extremists on behalf of the US, especially in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon official defended the oversight process, saying reimbursement claims come from Pakistan every three months or so and go through rigorous checks across several agencies. "It's not as if someone at the Pentagon simply hands over a check," the official says.
At the same time, the Pentagon has stepped up assistance to the Pakistani military. Construction of a site to train Pakistan's Frontier Corps is nearing completion, and another is planned for Baluchistan. By fall, up to 30 US Special Forces soldiers will begin training these frontier troops to conduct counterinsurgency operations.