Despite mounting pressure from the United States since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistans army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, seems unlikely to respond to American demands to root out other militant leaders, according to people who have met with him in the last 10 days, The New York Times reported on Friday.
While the general does not want to abandon the alliance completely, he is more likely to pursue a strategy of decreasing Pakistans reliance on the United States, and continuing to offer just enough cooperation to keep the billions of dollars in American aid flowing, said a confidant of the general who has spoken with him recently.
Such a response is certain to test American officials, who are more mistrustful of Pakistan than ever.
Emboldened by the May 2 raid that killed Bin Laden in Pakistan, American officials say they now have greater leverage to force Pakistani cooperation in hunting down Taliban and Qaeda leaders so the United States can end the war in Afghanistan.
The United States will now push harder than ever for General Kayani to break relations with other militant leaders who American officials believe are hiding in Pakistan, with the support of the military and intelligence service, a senior American official said.
These leaders include Mullah Muhammad Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban; the allied militant network of Sirajuddin Haqqani; and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that the United States holds responsible for the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in 2008, the American official said.
Pakistani officials, meanwhile, are anxiously waiting to see if any new intelligence about Al Qaeda in Pakistan spills from the American raid that could be used to exert more pressure on them, and what form that pressure might take.
But those who have spoken with General Kayani recently said that demands to break with top militant leaders were likely to be too much for the military chief, who is scheduled to address an unusual, closed-door joint session of Parliament on Friday to salvage his reputation and explain the militarys lapses surrounding the American raid.
The American wish list is tantamount to an overnight transformation of Pakistans long held strategic posture that calls for using the militant groups as proxies against Pakistans neighbors, they said. It comes as General Kayani faces mounting anti-American pressure from hard-line generals in his top command, two of the people who met with him said.
Many in the lower ranks of the military have greater sympathy for the militant groups than for the United States.
To take out the leadership of these groups longtime assets of the Pakistani Army and intelligence services would result in such a severe backlash from the militants that a civil war in Pakistan would result, said a former senior Pakistani official who was consulted by General Kayani in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.
The general, who has been courted for nearly three years by the United States most senior military officers in an effort to persuade him to launch an attack against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, was even more unlikely to do so now, the Pakistani said.
While increasingly frustrated with Pakistan, American officials would also like to avoid a complete rupture of relations with a nuclear-armed state that is essential to ending the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
With the United States eager to wind down in Afghanistan, Washington needs Pakistan more than ever, a factor that would play into the generals next moves, said Gen. Javed Ashraf Qazi, a former director general of Pakistans chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, who met with General Kayani recently.
Without Pakistani support, the United States cannot win the battle in Afghanistan, he said. Now the Americans are saying, please bring the Taliban to the table.
The army chief was described as angered that the Obama administration failed to trust him enough to tell him before the raid, asserting that in keeping him in the dark the United States had alienated Pakistans best friend, General Qazi said.
General Kayani cannot ignore the sentiment of his soldiers, said Riaz Khokhar, a former ambassador to the United States, who met with General Kayani.
There is a feeling in the rank and file of the army from A to Z that the United States is a most untrustworthy ally, Mr. Khokhar said.
We dont want to be an enemy of the United States, but the experience of friendship with the United States has not been a pleasant experience, so we have to find a middle road, he said.
General Qazi said hard questions were being asked about whether the American financial support to the Pakistani military was worth the lives we have lost in fighting Islamic militants.
Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has granted more than $20 billion in military and development assistance, an amount that does not include covert aid, according to K. Alan Kronstadt , the South Asian Affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service.
Cutting ties would be extremely costly for the Pakistani military, said Shuja Nawaz , head of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Anti-Pakistan sentiment was hardening in Congress as Pakistan waited for approval of payment arrears for its costs in fighting insurgents, Mr. Nawaz said.
In the short term, however, General Kayani seemed to be more concerned with the blow to the morale of his troops than with further damage to the already eroded relationship with the United States, according to the accounts from those who met him.
General Kayani visited six army garrisons this week in an effort to dispel doubts about the army and his leadership.
During his appearances, according to soldiers interviewed afterward, General Kayani acknowledged an intelligence failure in not knowing that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. But he added that this did not mean that Pakistan was to be blamed for everything. (The New York Times)