ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Outrage in Pakistan over a U.S. airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers may be too high to repair the tenuous U.S.-Pakistan relationship, observers said.
Public pressure to disengage from the United States is higher than ever, with critics such as former cricket star Imran Khan finding ways to tap into that anger, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
Khan, on the periphery of Pakistani politics, has seen his popularity grow as frustration with President Asif Ali Zardari increases, observers said.
The day after the Nov. 26 airstrike, Khan told a rally in Ghotki it was time for Pakistan "to withdraw from this American war."
The United States needs Pakistan's help to bring Taliban commanders and allies to the negotiating table as U.S.-led coalition forces begin withdrawing from Afghanistan, with the goal of handing security responsibilities to the Afghan government in 2014.
Kahn's oratory has forced the pro-U.S. Zardari administration to take a harder stand, one analyst told the Times.
"Khan is speaking the language of the streets," said Ikram Sehgal, a Karachi-based security analyst. "If you're a politician and you're disconnected with the streets, you're in trouble. Any politician who speaks against what the prevailing sentiment is in the country today is done for."
U.S. officials have urged Pakistan's leadership to wait until an investigation into the airstrike is finished, but some Pakistani military leaders said they think the report of the investigation will be biased or incomplete, the Times said. After the airstrike, Zardari's government closed border crossings used by convoys delivering supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan and ordered the United States to vacate an air base in Pakistan suspected of being used for drone attacks.
Pakistan will boycott a conference Monday in Bonn, Germany, to discuss Afghanistan's future, officials said.