Tensions between the United States and Pakistan continued to deteriorate today after Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted that the United States has the right to launch attacks into Pakistani territory. Pakistani Prime Minister Raza Gilani released a statement shortly after the news broke insisting that the American attack were “counterproductive,” and saying that his government had warned the United States in no uncertain terms that there would be no compromise on the issue of cross border attacks.
The US alliance with Pakistan has been under considerable strain since the US began a policy of escalating attacks into the tribal regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik insists that there has been no agreement between his government and the US which would allow the cross-border attacks.
Despite a promise from Admiral Michael Mullen yesterday to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, the US strikes have continued unabated, with the latest coming just hours after Mullen’s assurance killing seven in South Waziristan. Some sources claim that an unnamed al-Qaeda commander was killed in the attack, but Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi insists that the US did not inform the government before the attack.
In addition, Minister Qureshi said at a news conference today that he had received no guarantees from the United States that it won’t launch more attacks in the future. He also cited Admiral Mullen’s promise and the subsequent attack as evidence of an “institutional disconnect” in the US that needed to be sorted out.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani has said the military will bar foreign forces from operating in the country, and a reported incident Monday in which Pakistani forces opened fire on US helicopters attempting to cross the border suggests this remains a high priority for Pakistan’s military. It may be so high a priority in fact that one think-tank has suggested the military may pose a threat to President Zardari’s government if he doesn’t successfully balance US pressure with domestic opposition to American attacks.