Ef­forts un­der way to ease ten­sions over aid sus­pen­sion

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Shashank Ben­gali Shashank Ben­gali is a Los An­ge­les Times writer.

MUM­BAI, In­dia — In the weeks since the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion with­held nearly $1 bil­lion in se­cu­rity aid for Pak­istan, Washington and Islamabad of­fi­cials have been work­ing to patch things up and avert a danger­ous de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in their of­ten trou­bled re­la­tions.

Sev­eral U.S. of­fi­cials have met with senior Pak­istani civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers to find what one called “com­mon ground” af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump re­buked Pak­istan in a series of New Years Day Twitter posts, and then said the U.S. would no longer pro­vide aid to Islamabad.

Trump ac­cused Pak­istan of do­ing noth­ing to as­sist in the U.S.-led war ef­fort in neigh­bor­ing Afghanistan and of not crack­ing down on mil­i­tants that attack U.S. and Afghan forces across the bor­der.

Some U.S. and Afghan of­fi­cials wor­ried that Pak­istan would re­tal­i­ate by no longer shar­ing in­tel­li­gence or rais­ing the costs for U.S.-led NATO forces to use Pak­istani air and land cor­ri­dors into Afghanistan. Pak­istani De­fense Min­is­ter Khur­ram Dast­gir Khan said last week that Pak­istan would stop “a wide field of in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion and de­fense co­op­er­a­tion” with the U.S. He did not elab­o­rate.

U.S. and Pak­istani of­fi­cials say nei­ther has hap­pened, and in con­ver­sa­tions over the past week the two sides have tried to move past Trump’s in­cen­di­ary rhetoric.

The Pak­istani army said in a state­ment Fri­day that the head of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, Gen. Joseph Vo­tel, said in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Pak­istan’s chief of army staff that the “on­go­ing tur­bu­lence” in the coun­tries’ re­la­tion­ship was “a tem­po­rary phase.”

Vo­tel also told Gen. Qa­mar Javed Ba­jwa that the U.S. was “not con­tem­plat­ing any unilateral ac­tion in­side Pak­istan,” but is seek­ing its co­op­er­a­tion to cap­ture mil­i­tants based on Pak­istani soil who carry out at­tacks in Afghanistan, the Pak­istani state­ment said.

Pak­istan ini­tially feared that Trump would launch a strike in Pak­istan — sim­i­lar to the 2011 raid to cap­ture Osama bin Laden out­side Islamabad — and put its forces on alert the day the aid sus­pen­sion was an­nounced.

U.S. of­fi­cials have given no as­sur­ances that as much as $1 bil­lion in aid would re­sume. But a Pak­istani of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said the gov­ern­ment had breathed “a sigh of re­lief ” as their U.S. coun­ter­parts played down Trump’s com­ments.

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