U.S. Diplomats Face Backlash In Islamabad
Effort to Deny Visas Causes Disruptions
By Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt
Thursday, December 17, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are mounting what American officials here describe as a campaign to harass American diplomats, fraying relations at a critical moment when the Obama administration is demanding more help to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The campaign includes the refusal to extend or approve visas for more than 100 American officials and the frequent searches of American diplomatic vehicles in major cities, said an American official briefed on the cases.
The problems affected military attachés, C.I.A. officers, development experts, junior level diplomats and others, a senior American diplomat said. As a result, some American aid programs to Pakistan, which President Obama has called a critical ally, are "grinding to a halt," the diplomat said.
American helicopters used by Pakistan to fight militants can no longer be serviced because visas for 14 American mechanics have not been approved, the diplomat said. Reimbursements to Pakistan of nearly $1 billion a year for its counterterrorism operations were suspended because embassy accountants had to leave the country.
"There's an incredible disconnect between what they want of us and the fact we can't get the visas," the diplomat said.
Pakistani officials acknowledged the situation but said the menacing atmosphere resulted from American arrogance and prevocations, like taking photographs in sensitive areas, and a lack of understanding of how divided Pakistanis were about the alliance with the United States.
American and Pakistani officials declined to be identified while speaking about the issues because of their senior positions and the desire not to further inflame tensions.
The campaign comes after months of rising anti-American sentiment here and complaints by the military that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari has grown too dependent on a new $7.5 billion, five-year aid plan from Washington.
It also appears to be an attempt to blunt the planned expansion of the United States Embassy to 800 Americans from 500 in the next 18 months, growth that American officials say is necessary to channel the expanded American assistance.
"They don't want more Americans here," another American diplomat said. "They're not sure what the Americans are doing. It's pretty pervasive.
The harassment has grown so frequent that American officials said they regarded it as a concerted effort by parts of the military and intelligence services that had grown resentful of American demands to step up the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Though the United States has been sending large amounts of military assistance to the Pakistani Army, and helping its premier spy agency, the Inter-Sevices Intelligence directorate, the campaign shows the ambivalence, even "hatred" toward the United States in those quarters, the American official said.
A Pakistani security official, who has kept a tally of many of the incidents, was not sympathetic, saying the Americans had brought them problems on themselves.
"Unfortunately, the Americans are arrogant," the Pakistani security official said. "They think of themselves as omnipotent. That's how they come across."
  The visa difficulties can be reciprocated.... although that still leaves the more difficult needs to be dealt with.
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an earlier title and date) is available from: