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Terrorism & Security

Pakistan to US: Respect our decision to sentence CIA informant

After a Pakistani doctor was sentenced to 33 years in prison on treason charges for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden, the US protested, saying he was acting against Al Qaeda, not Pakistan.   

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The Christian Science Monitor notes that it's not a given that the US will intervene further on Afridi's behalf because the US and Pakistan have less and less common ground. That the US turned to a Pakistani citizen for help locating bin Laden, rather than Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) "speaks volumes" about the deterioration of relations between the two, he writes.

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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To Pakistan, Shakil Afridi is a traitor who helped a foreign power locate and kill an enemy on its territory. To the US, Dr. Afridi is a hero who will now, apparently, spend the next 33 years of his life in prison.

Now his sentencing marks another low-water mark for the US-Pakistani relationship, and highlights how little common ground the two countries share. But expectations for each side are now so low that it’s unlikely the US is going to adopt another full-court press as seen when another US spy – Raymond Davis– faced detention in Pakistan.

There’s also much less riding on the US-Pakistan relationship than even a year ago when the Davis affair erupted. NATO has managed to keep the Afghan war effort going, despite Pakistan cutting off supply lines through its territory. Then, too, trust has evaporated since the discovery of bin Laden in Pakistan and the unauthorized US raid to kill him.

Afridi's arrest is only today's headline example of the two countries' conflicting interests. The US drone campaign against suspected militants in Pakistan – wildly unpopular among the Pakistani public – continued with two strikes in the past two days. Ten people were killed today and four yesterday, according to Reuters. Pakistanis see the drone strikes as a violation of their sovereignty that also inflicts civilian casualties. 

Pakistan has repeatedly demanded an end to the attacks, although it also provides some assistance finding targets, Reuters reports. 

The two countries are negotiating the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan via Pakistan, but negotiations have been repeatedly complicated by diplomatic spats between the two countries. The dispute regarding Afridi's arrest is likely to further strain negotiations. Pakistan shut down the trucking routes in retaliation for a November US airstrike that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. 

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