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Pakistan Wants US to Reduce Military Presence

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Pakistan's military on Thursday warned that any future U.S. raids on Pakistani territory will result in a review of military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.

The statement is the first to be issued by the Pakistani military since Monday's U.S. commando raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The statement says U.S. military personnel in Pakistan will be reduced to the “minimum essential” levels. The statement also admits, however, to “shortcomings” in the military's efforts to locate bin Laden.

Earlier Thursday, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir warned of “disastrous consequences” for any nation that carries out unauthorized military actions in Pakistani territory.

Bashir told a news conference that Pakistan's security forces will exercise their “sacred duty” to protect the nation. Many Pakistanis have said they see the U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound in the city of Abbottabad as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and accuse the government and the military of not doing enough to stop it.

U.S. officials have said they did not give Pakistan prior warning of the raid due to concern that bin Laden and his associates would be tipped off. A major Pakistani Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, is calling for peaceful mass protests on Friday to denounce the United States.

Bashir denied accusations that Pakistani intelligence agents were incompetent or colluded with al-Qaida and said Pakistan's counterterrorism record is unmatched.

The Pakistani foreign secretary also said Islamabad regards the United States as an important friend and appreciates comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama reaffirming that relationship.

Bashir offered new details about the Pakistani military's response to the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. He said the military first knew something was happening when one of the U.S. helicopters involved in the raid malfunctioned.

The foreign secretary says the government responded to the raid by mobilizing the Pakistani army, intelligence agency and air force, which scrambled two F-16 fighter jets. He says it took about 15 minutes for the first units to reach the site, which is located about 900 meters from a military academy in Abbottabad.

Bashir says that by time Pakistani security forces reached the compound, the raid was over and the Americans had left. He says the top U.S. military officer Admiral Mike Mullen called Pakistani authorities at 3 a.m. Pakistani time Monday to alert them about the raid once it was over.

U.S. media reports quote unnamed Obama administration officials as saying the only shots fired at the Navy SEALs who raided the compound came from a guest house at the start of the 40-minute long nighttime operation.

The officials are quoted as saying the SEALs then killed the al-Qaida courier who fired those shots, while a woman inside the guest house died in crossfire. After that incident, they say the SEALs assumed “everyone” in the compound was armed and dangerous.

The U.S. officials told the news agencies that the SEALs went into the compound's main house, saw a man thought to be hiding a weapon and killed him. They say that as the SEALs went up a staircase, they ran into a son of bin Laden and killed him too, perceiving him to be a threat.

The officials say that when the SEALs entered a room on the top floor of the main house, they saw bin Laden within arm's reach of several weapons and shot him in the head as well as wounding a woman who was with him. U.S. officials have said bin Laden made a threatening move at the time but was unarmed.

The Reuters news agency has published several photos that it says were taken by a Pakistani security officer in the compound hours after the raid. The photos include graphic images of the bodies of three men lying in pools of blood. Reuters says the Pakistani officer sold the photos to the news agency and it has verified their authenticity.

Article by VOA News