Pakistan’s Chief of Army Fights to Keep His Job By JANE PERLEZ Published: June 15, 2011
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s army chief, the most powerful man in the country, is fighting to save his position in the face of seething anger from top generals and junior officers since the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to Pakistani officials and people who have met the chief in recent weeks.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has led the army since 2007, faces such intense discontent over what is seen as his cozy relationship with the United States that a colonels’ coup, while unlikely, was not out of the question, said a well-informed Pakistani who has seen the general in recent weeks, as well as an American military official involved with Pakistan for many years.
The Pakistani Army is essentially run by consensus among 11 top commanders, known as the Corps Commanders, and almost all of them, if not all, were demanding that General Kayani get much tougher with the Americans, even edging toward a break, Pakistanis who follow the army closely said.
Washington, with its own hard line against Pakistan, had pushed General Kayani into a defensive crouch, along with his troops, and if the general was pushed out, the United States would face a more uncompromising anti-American army chief, the Pakistani said.
To repair the reputation of the army, and to ensure his own survival, General Kayani made an extraordinary tour of more than a dozen garrisons, mess halls and other institutions in the six weeks since the May 2 raid that killed Bin Laden. His goal was to rally support among his rank-and-file troops, who are almost uniformly anti-American, according to participants and people briefed on the sessions.
During a long session in late May at the National Defense University, the premier academy in Islamabad, the capital, one officer got up after General Kayani’s address and challenged his policy of cooperation with the United States. The officer asked, “If they don’t trust us, how can we trust them?” according to Shaukaut Qadri, a retired army brigadier who was briefed on the session. General Kayani essentially responded, “We can’t,” Mr. Qadri said.
In response to pressure from his troops, Pakistani and American officials said, General Kayani had already become a more obstinate partner, standing ever more firm with each high-level American delegation that has visited since the raid to try and rescue the shattered American-Pakistani relationship.
In a prominent example of the new Pakistani intransigence, The New York Times reported Tuesday that, according to American officials, Pakistan’s spy agency had arrested five Pakistani informants who helped the Central Intelligence Agency before the Bin Laden raid. The officials said one of them is a doctor who has served as a major in the Pakistani Army. In a statement on Wednesday, a Pakistani military spokesman called the story “false” and said no army officer had been detained. Over all, Pakistani and American officials said, the relationship was now more competitive and combative than cooperative.
General Kayani told the director of the C.I.A., Leon E. Panetta, during a visit here last weekend that Pakistan would not accede to his request for independent operations by the agency, Pakistani and American officials said.
A long statement after the regular monthly meeting of the 11 corps commanders last week illuminated the mounting hostility toward the United States, even as it remains the army’s biggest patron, supplying at least $2 billion a year in aid.
The statement, aimed at rebuilding support within the army and among the public, said that American training in Pakistan had only ever been minimal, and had now ended. “It needs to be clarified that the army had never accepted any training assistance from the United States except for training on the newly inducted weapons and some training assistance for the Frontier Corps only,” a reference to paramilitary troops in the northwest tribal areas, the statement said.
The statement said that the C.I.A.-run drone attacks against militants in the tribal areas “were not acceptable under any circumstances.”
Allowing the drones to continue to operate from Pakistan was “politically unsustainable,” said the well-informed Pakistani who met with General Kayani recently. As part of his survival mechanism, General Kayani could well order the Americans to stop the drone program completely, the Pakistani said.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 16, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: PAKISTAN’S CHIEF OF ARMY FIGHTS TO KEEP HIS JOB...
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Fights to Keep His Job