Washington, Oct 8: In what could mark a pivot in US-Pakistani relations, Pakistani forces have arrested a handful of al-Qaeda suspects at the CIA's request, and allowed the US access to the detainees, US and Pakistani officials said.
Pakistan has also stopped demanding the CIA suspend the covert drone strikes that have damaged al-Qaeda's militant ranks in Pakistan's tribal areas, officials on both sides say though the Pakistanis say they have simply put this on the back burner for now.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic matters. Only one of the al-Qaeda figures who was arrested is considered senior, but US and Pakistani officials called the combined moves a trend in the right direction.
"They are doing things to cooperate and be helpful," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in an interview with The Associated Press yesterday. Clapper would not comment on the details shared by other US and two Pakistani officials, but confirmed there has been some progress restoring the joint intelligence cooperation that used to be routine, prior to the covert US raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in May.
The raid inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and embarrassed its intelligence services, who were already angry over an incident in January, when a CIA security contractor shot dead two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. For a time, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency refused to carry out any joint operations with American intelligence officers, nor would they allow the Americans access to question militant detainees.