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American Diplomats Harassed in Pakistan

(AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
Parts of the Pakistani military and intelligence services are purposefully harassing American diplomats in Pakistan, reports The New York Times.

American officials say the treatment includes refusing to extend or approve visas and frequent car searches, which diplomats are immune from according to international conventions.

"They don't want more Americans here," one American diplomat told the Times. "They're not sure what the Americans are doing. It's pretty pervasive."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,
left, shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009.

But the harassment has moved beyond the realm of minor irritants and is now affecting operations in the country.

American helicopters used by the Pakistani military can no longer be used because visas for 14 American mechanics have not been approved. Reimbursements of nearly $1 billion paid to Pakistan each year have been halted because the embassy's five accountants were forced to go home when their visas were not extended. The embassy itself is running at 60 percent capacity because so many American diplomats have been refused visa extensions.

"There's an incredible disconnect between what they want of us and the fact we can't get the visas," another diplomat said.

But Pakistani officials say the treatment is a response to American arrogance and provocation, not harassment. They have accused one diplomat of taking photographs in a military area in Lahore and others of fleeing the police when their car was stopped at a checkpoint.

"Unfortunately, the Americans are arrogant," a Pakistani security official said. "They think of themselves as omnipotent. That's how they come across."

A spokesman for the American embassy denied both accounts.

Whether or not the reports are true, the apparent harassment seems to indicate growing anger towards the United States and its continued presence in Pakistan.

Read more at The New York Times.