US, Pakistan try to salvage ties
Monday, May 16, 2011
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A top U.S. emissary warned Pakistan on Monday that “actions not words” are needed to tackle militant sanctuaries, as the two countries tried to salvage their relationship two weeks after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a garrison town close to the national capital.
Sen. John Kerry, the first high-level American official to visit Islamabad since the May 2 death of the al-Qaida leader, said Pakistan agreed to take several “specific steps” immediately to improve ties.
But he did not say whether those steps include what the U.S. wants most: action against the Haqqani network and other Taliban factions sheltering in Pakistan and killing American troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
Although the United States says it has no evidence that Pakistan’s civil or military leadership knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts, the knowledge that the U.S. might find some evidence in the documents seized in the terror leader’s compound has given it new leverage over Islamabad.
Pakistan has long balked at U.S. requests to crack down on Afghan Taliban factions on its soil. The Taliban and al-Qaida have close ties, and suspicions over Pakistani complicity in hiding bin Laden have fostered further questions about whether Pakistan is not only tolerating but perhaps even supporting other militants.
Kerry noted that several members of the U.S. Congress no longer want to authorize U.S. aid to Pakistan given the suspicions generated by the bin Laden raid.
“Members of Congress are not confident that things can be patched up again,” said Kerry, who chairs the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and is considered a friend of Pakistan. “That is why actions not words are going to be critical to earning their votes.”
Bin Laden’s hideaway in Abbottabad, which also houses Pakistan’s version of West Point, has compounded questions in America’s eyes over this country’s reliability as an ally. Pakistanis reacted angrily to the U.S. incursion on their soil.
Kerry’s public comments and a later joint statement with Pakistan’s army and intelligence chiefs after a series of meetings indicated willingness on both sides to stabilize a vital relationship.
Still, there were few immediate tangible signs of progress.
Kerry said Pakistan agreed to hand over the tail of a classified stealth helicopter that was destroyed by the American commandos when it malfunctioned on the raid on bin Laden’s hideaway.