ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s army broke its silence Thursday over the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, acknowledging its own ‘‘shortcomings’’ in efforts to find the al-Qaida leader but threatening to review cooperation with Washington if there is another similar violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
The tough-sounding statement was a sign of the anger in the army. It also appeared aimed at appeasing politicians, the public and the media in the country over what’s viewed by many here as a national humiliation delivered by a deeply unpopular America.
While international concerns are centered on suspicions that elements of the security forces sheltered bin Laden, most Pakistanis seem more upset that uninvited American soldiers flew into the country, landed on the ground and launched an attack on a house — and that the army was unaware and unable to stop them. That it happened in an army town, next door to a military academy and close to the capital has added to the embarrassment.
Ties between the two countries were already strained before the raid because of American allegations that Islamabad was failing to crack down on Afghan Taliban factions sheltering on Pakistani soil. Pakistan was angered over stepped-up U.S. drone strikes and the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in January.
While U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington would continue engaging with Pakistan, the fallout from Monday’s raid has added a new layer of tensions to a relationship that is crucial to stabilizing Afghanistan and allowing American troops to begin withdrawing this year.
The U.S. needs Pakistan’s cooperation for, among other things, ferrying supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan. Washington has given the Pakistani army more than $10 billion in aid over the past decade to help it fight militants.
The tone of the army statement was in sharp contrast to the initial response to the raid by the country’s civilian leaders. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had hailed the operation as a ‘‘great victory’’ but made no mention of any concerns over sovereignty.
The army statement was issued after the country’s 12 top generals met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, regarded as the most powerful man in the country, to discuss the operation and its implications on ‘‘military to military relations with the United States.’’
It said Kayani told his colleagues that a decision had been made to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel to the ‘‘minimum essential’’ levels. The statement gave no more details, and an army spokesman declined to elaborate. The U.S. has about 275 declared U.S. military personnel in Pakistan at any one time, some of them helping train the Pakistani army. U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Davis case also led to criticism of the army after it backed a deal that allowed him to walk free after the U.S. agreed to pay compensation to the relatives of the victims. Some media reports indicated Kayani had asked for a cut in American military personnel then, and it was unclear if Thursday’s statement referred to that.