Pakistani harassment of US diplomats said to rise

Pakistani government harassment and obstruction of U.S. diplomats is increasing dramatically, reaching the point where it is "significantly impairing" the work of the American embassy and consulates there, the State Department's internal watchdog said Thursday.

The department's inspector general report said official harassment "has reached new levels of intensity" since the May 2011 U.S. raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, and it rose further after November NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, prompting Islamabad to suspend most military cooperation and look to fundamentally revise its relationship with the United States.

"Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and program implementation," said the report, which was based on visits to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore between January and mid-February.

The 76-page report, labeled "sensitive but unclassified," described the harassment as "deliberate, willful and systematic" and said ending it should be a top priority in high-level discussions with Pakistani authorities.

The report said the harassment included delays in getting visas; blocked shipments for aid programs and construction projects; denials of in-country travel requests; and surveillance of and interference with mission employees and contractors. Extensive parts of report's section on harassment are blacked out, including all details of specific incidents as well as the State Department's response to the findings.

It noted that U.S. diplomats and other government workers "have long been subjected to unusual, government-initiated obstructionism and harassment" but that it had gotten far worse.

"That harassment has reached new levels of intensity, however, after the events of 2011," the report said.

And it maintained that the U.S. and its diplomats were being singled out.

"While other diplomatic missions have experienced similar treatment, the United States is clearly the principal target," the report said.

In addition to the November airstrikes and Pakistan's ignorance of the bin Laden raid, which the report described in unusually blunt terms as evidence of "both Pakistani government incompetence and its inability to detect or defend against a military intervention," relations were harmed further by the killing of two Pakistanis by a CIA contractor in January 2011 and a September attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by extremists suspected of links with Pakistani intelligence, the report said.

"Events of the past year have rocked the U.S.-Pakistani relationship and fundamentally altered the assumptions on which U.S. engagement with Pakistan has been based since 2009," it said.