Pakistan decided yesterday to boycott a key international conference on Afghanistan next month, ramping up its protest over lethal cross-border NATO air strikes that have plunged US ties into deep crisis.
The decision was taken at a Pakistani Cabinet meeting in the eastern city of Lahore, just days after Islamabad confirmed it was mulling its attendance in the German city of Bonn, where Pakistan’s participation was considered vital.The strike on Nov. 26 along the Afghan-Pakistani border killed 24 Pakistani troops and triggered fury in Islamabad. Hours after the incident, Islamabad closed its western border to trucks delivering supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan and said it will review all cooperation with NATO and the United States. A Pentagon spokesman, George Little, said the U.S. military would not scale back its operations against Taliban-linked insurgents and expressed hope that the latest tensions with Islamabad would be resolved. Also U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama’s administration was working on a response to a number of demands from Pakistan but gave no indication the drone operations would be dramatically cut back.
The Dec. 5 meeting was to bring together Western and regional leaders to forge a strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and smooth the planned American withdrawal from the country in 2014. Earlier this month, representatives from 20 countries and international organizations gathered in Istanbul this month aiming to chart the way ahead for Afghanistan.
No more ‘business as usual’ with US: Pakistan
Pakistan’s prime minister meanwhile ruled out “business as usual” with the United States. “Business as usual will not be there,” Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told CNN when asked if ties with the United States would continue. “We have to have something bigger so as to satisfy my nation.” The relationship, he said, would continue only if based on “mutual respect and mutual interest.” Asked if Pakistan was receiving that respect, Gilani replied: “At the moment, not.”
General Martin Dempsey, a top military officer, also stated that U.S.-Pakistani relations are at one of their worst points in memory but can recover. Dempsey said Pakistani anger was justified given the loss of life. Asked about U.S.-Pakistani relations, Dempsey said: “It certainly does look like it’s on about as rocky a road as it has been in my memory. And my memory with Pakistan goes back some 20 years or so.” Pakistan shut NATO supply routes into Afghanistan in retaliation for the killings. Dempsey said the United States could cope with the cut-off by channeling supplies through alternative routes.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.