The government of Pakistan wants a detailed agreement with the U.S. about the rules of engagement any time American forces operate inside its borders -- but Washington is refusing, the AP reported Thursday.
It could be a good sign or a bad sign, depending on your perspective: You could read it as a positive signal that Pakistani officials aren't totally rescinding any hope of restoring a good working relationship with their American counterparts. But you could also read it as a clear desire to step in and control the American intelligence and special operations presence as much as possible -- which could spell inconvenience at best and disaster at worst.
The reason American officials did not notify Pakistan about May's raid against Osama bin Laden was to keep elements in Islamabad from warning the terror leader and letting him escape. Evidently Washington doesn't know exactly who it can trust and who it can't -- and that could change from day to day -- so it elected to tell no one. If the U.S. signs a specifically delineated agreement on rules of engagement, it could find its way into the hands of bad guys, who might get an edge by knowing what American forces will and won't to do get them.
Even if the military rules don't leak, the other aspects of the ROE agreement that Pakistan wants are a recipe for compromised operational security:
Pakistan military officials want the U.S. to sign what is called a "memorandum of understanding," an agreement they want to include such details as the number of CIA operatives working in Pakistan, notification before U.S. drone strikes, intelligence gathered and a written promise about Pakistan's role if al-Qaida's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is found in Pakistan.Translation: Pakistan effectively wants veto power over American operations there. Especially telling is that it wants to be read in if and when American forces go after Zawahri, to avoid a repeat of the bin Laden embarrassment. Pakistani officials probably know they can't use diplomacy to get the U.S. to cancel a raid against somebody like that, but if they get a heads-up before it happens, they can at least tip off Zawahri so he escapes and remains a nuisance to the United States.
"There can be no more gray areas," said a senior Pakistani military official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to speak publicly about diplomatic negotiations.
But if Pakistan is as important as Defense and State officials keep saying it is, does it make sense for the U.S. to sign some kind of agreement as a gesture of good faith? The two countries have got to get something going if they're going to restart their relationship after the bin Laden raid, right?
What do you think?