EXCLUSIVE: Pakistan official says US military will be allowed to return, but not CIA drones

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Published January 20, 2012

| FoxNews.com

U.S. military trainers will be invited back into Pakistan "as early as April or May," but the nation has ruled out allowing CIA drones back into the country, Fox News has learned.

Relations between the two nations have been at an all-time low since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an inadvertent aerial attack by NATO in November.

The Pakistani parliament is reviewing the nature of its relationship with the U.S., and politicians are expected on Jan. 30 to deliver a list of conditions for cooperation to resume.

The stipulations will include no covert CIA or military operations on the ground in Pakistan, and no unauthorized incursions into its airspace. Drones, which are the CIA's biggest weapon against militants hiding in the tribal belt dividing Afghanistan and Pakistan, "can never return," a senior Pakistani official told Fox News.

"They will never be allowed back, at Shamsi or anywhere else," the official added, referring to the base in the country's southwest from which many of the unmanned aerial vehicles were deployed before the NATO attack in November.

In return, Pakistan would allow back U.S. military trainers, including special forces teams, and a resumption of close cooperation with the CIA in targeting militants who use the Pakistani side of the border as a safe haven and breeding ground for extremism. It would also reopen the Torkham and Chaman border crossings into Afghanistan, which have been closed to NATO supply convoys since the attack.

"After this is presented to the Americans, a lot could happen very quickly," the senior official told Fox News, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Islamabad also would reopen its doors to high-level U.S. diplomats after an embarrassing snub this week to President Obama's special envoy to the region, Marc Grossman, who was denied his request to visit Pakistan in the middle of his tour of South Asia.

Pakistan says it wants working conditions with Washington that provide "respect for the nation, its sovereignty -- both its soil and airspace -- and equal terms of cooperation." Government members have said publicly that there has never been equality in the relationship.

"We understand the government of Pakistan is still working on its review of U.S.-Pakistan relations, and we have not yet received a formal report from the government,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said in an emailed statement. “Decisions about the level of Pakistani commitment to our military relationship are obviously theirs to make, and we respect that.

"We continue to desire a close military relationship with Pakistan. ... We both have a fundamental interest in cooperation, in eliminating Al Qaeda's ability to operate from Pakistan, and in ensuring a stable Afghanistan and stable region."

Pakistan, especially its military, has been reeling since U.S. forces killed Usama Bin Laden in a raid in May. The raid, which sparked nationwide protests and stoked further anti-Americanism, and civilian casualties caused by drone attacks are considered by Pakistan to be flagrant violations of its sovereignty by an "arrogant" American government.

Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said this week that ties "are on hold until we start re-engaging," but Pakistan is now motivated by the U.S. elections to move forward swiftly in rebuilding trust between the countries. Islamabad fears that if foundation stones are not laid before presidential campaigning begins in earnest in the summer, it will not be able to renegotiate with Washington until the middle of next year.

But the senior official suggested there might be a benefit to waiting.

"We would prefer it if there was a Republican government again,” he said. “Pakistan has always done well with the Republicans. Historically, over the decades, we have always had difficulty doing business with the Democrats."

The George W. Bush administration threw billions of dollars at Pakistan to fight Islamist extremists in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Pakistan was under the rule of the military dictator Pervez Musharraf. President Bush is said to have convinced Musharraf to leave office, allowing the country to become a democratic state, albeit a highly unstable one ever since.

Under the Obama administration, "we have been getting mixed signals from State, the Pentagon and the CIA,” the official said. “None are on the same page. They do not know how to deal with us, which makes it difficult for us to deal with America." He said that dealings over the past year with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been "warmest [out of three] and friendly and she genuinely sympathized with the Pakistanis and reached out to the people."

But a gradual erosion of trust between Islamabad and Washington, brought about violence that Pakistan blames on the U.S. and by intransigence by the Pakistani security apparatus to wipe out key militants, has brought the relationship to a bitter impasse.

Congress has stalled much of the $2 billion Pakistan receives annually from the U.S. in civil and military aid, and Pakistan will struggle without its full resumption.

Next month it is due to repay $1.2 billion interest on a $7.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which was deferred from last year. The government is expected to delay yet again amid a failed economy and poor foreign revenues.

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http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/01/20/exclusive-pakistan-official-says-us-military-will-be-allowed-to-return-but-not/