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May 18, 2011

US, Pakistan Continue Push to Repair Ties

Top U.S. officials are holding talks with Pakistani leaders in a push to repair ties further strained by the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, discussed U.S.-Pakistan relations with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad on Thursday.  

A Pakistani government statement said the talks are a follow-up to U.S. Senator John Kerry's meeting on Monday, during which the two sides agreed to put relations "back on track" and said that the relationship should be based on mutual trust and respect.

Grossman also met with Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani. The military said the two discussed future engagement between the U.S. and Pakistan, as well as reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

The deputy director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morell, is holding talks with Pakistan's intelligence agency chief, General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

U.S. officials say the talks are meant to ease tensions and lay the groundwork for an upcoming visit to Pakistan by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Pakistan has complained that the May 2 killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces was a breach of its sovereignty, and said such future actions would carry serious consequences.

The discovery of bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad has also raised questions about whether he was being hidden by accomplices in Pakistan's military or intelligence service.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday there is no evidence suggesting that senior Pakistani leadership knew bin Laden's whereabouts.  But Gates said he still believes somebody in Pakistan probably knew where bin Laden was hiding.

Some U.S. lawmakers, angered by the discovery in bin Laden in Pakistan, have threatened to cut off billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries were already strained, following a series of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan's northwest and the detention of a CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January.

U.S. officials have never publicly acknowledged the use of drones against militants inside Pakistan, but have privately confirmed their existence to various media outlets.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.