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Pakistan asks US to stop drone raids, cut CIA operations

Demand is seen as fallout from case of Raymond Davis, the CIA agent being held by Islamabad over the alleged murders of two young Pakistani men.

Pakistan 2011 4 12Enlarge
An activist of the Pakistani fundamentalist Islamic party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) holds a burning effigy of CIA contractor Raymond Davis during a protest in Peshawar on March 18, 2011. Thousands of people took the streets across Pakistan on March 18 to protest a U.S. drone strike that killed 35 people and the release of a CIA contractor who had been held for murder. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan wants the U.S. to halt drone air strikes within its borders and cut the number of CIA agents and Special Operations forces operating there working there, according to reports.

Militant groups are known to use the northwestern part of Pakistan to stage attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and any scale back of U.S. operations in the country would be considered a blow to America's ability to defend against such attacks.

The demand came as a direct result of the furor surrounding Raymond Davis, the CIA agent being held by Islamabad over the alleged murders of two young Pakistani men who he said were trying to rob him.

The case has exacerbated tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan, allies in the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants in the region whose relationship is near collapse, according to the New York Times.

It has also highlighted a lack of trust between the two countries' intelligence agencies.

In all, about 335 American personnel were being asked to leave the country, the Times quoted a Pakistani official as saying. The reductions were personally demanded by Pakistani Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, according to the Times' sources.

The disclosure came after the head of Pakistani intelligence, Gen. Ahmad Suja Pasha, reportedly cut short his visit to the U.S. Monday after meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta.

According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Pasha was to address a number of issues putting strains on U.S.-Pakistani relations, particularly the perception among Pakistani officials that they are not trusted by their U.S. counterparts.

CIA spokesman George Little told the Times that the meetings were "productive" and that U.S. and Pakistan intelligence "remain on solid footing."

However, according to The Dawn, the U.S. has increasingly been working unilaterally and withholding information from Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-services Intelligence.

And further:

The Pakistani army firmly believes that Washington’s real aim in Pakistan is to neutralize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, which is now on a path to becoming the world’s fifth largest, said the Pakistani official closely involved in the decision on reducing the American presence.

President Asif Ali Zardari, meanwhile, has warned in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is “seriously undermining efforts to restore Pakistan’s democratic institutions and economic prosperity.”

He said that during his visit to Washington next month he would ask the Obama administration to share drone technology so the air strikes could be carried out under "Pakistani flag."

— Freya Petersen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/110412/pakistan-us-cia-drone-qaeda-news