- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2011

WASHINGTON — Bruised from their latest diplomatic clash, the U.S. and Pakistan are trying to bandage their relationship by forging a new joint intelligence team to go after top terrorism suspects, officials say.

The move comes after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented the Pakistanis with the U.S. list of most-wanted terrorism targets, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Wednesday. The list includes some groups the Pakistanis have been reluctant to attack, U.S. officials said.

It’s one of a host of confidence-building measures meant to restore trust blown on both sides after U.S. forces tracked down and killed al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden during a secret raid in Pakistan last month.

But it also amounts to a new test of loyalty for both sides. The Pakistanis say the U.S. has failed to share its best intelligence, instead running numerous unilateral spying operations on its soil.

U.S. officials say they need to see the Pakistanis target militants they’ve long sheltered, including the Haqqani network, which operates with impunity in the Pakistani tribal areas while attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir (right) joins hands with Afghanistan Deputy Foreign Minister Jaweed Ludin (center) and U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman on May 3, 2011, prior to their joint news conference at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Associated Press)
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir (right) joins hands with Afghanistan Deputy Foreign ... more >

All those interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The U.S. and Pakistan have engaged in a diplomatic stare-down since the May 2 raid, with the Pakistanis outraged over the unilateral action as an affront to its sovereignty and the Americans angry to find that bin Laden had been hiding for more than five years in a military town just 35 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

The U.S. deliberately hid the operation from Pakistan, recipient of billions in counterterrorism aid, for fear that the operation would leak to militants.

A series of high-level U.S. visits has aimed to take the edge off. Marc Grossman, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell met with intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha last month. Last week, the secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, held a day of intensive meetings with top Pakistani military and civilian officials.

After that outreach, Pakistan allowed the CIA to re-examine the bin Laden compound last Friday. Pakistan also returned the tail section of a U.S. stealth Black Hawk helicopter that broke off when the SEALs blew up the aircraft to destroy its secret noise- and radar-deadening technology.

The CIA has also shared some information gleaned from the raid, and Pakistan has reciprocated, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Wednesday.

The investigative team will be made up mainly of intelligence officers from both nations, according to two U.S. officials and one Pakistani official. It would draw in part on any intelligence emerging from the CIA’s analysis of computer and written files gathered by the Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, as well as Pakistani intelligence gleaned from interrogations of those who frequented or lived near the bin Laden compound, the officials said.

The formation of the team marks a return to the counterterrorism cooperation that has led to major takedowns of al Qaeda militants, like the joint arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003.

The joint intelligence team will go after five top targets, including al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri, a possible bin Laden successor, and al Qaeda operations chief Atiya Abdel Rahman, as well as Taliban leader like Mullah Omar, all of whom U.S. intelligence officials believe are hiding in Pakistan, one U.S. official said.

Another target is Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani tribe in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Haqqanis are behind some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops and Afghan civilians in Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence officials say their top commanders live openly in the Pakistani city of Miram Shah, close to a Pakistani army outpost.

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