Clinton, Joint Chiefs chairman press Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Pakistan on Friday to repair badly frayed relations after the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden at a comfortable hideout not far from this capital city.
Amid frustration in both countries with the other's priorities, Clinton was joined by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to deliver a twofold message.
The United States wants to soothe nerves and hurt feelings following the raid nearly a month ago by U.S. Navy SEALs on bin Laden's compound, a strike that was kept secret even from Pakistan's top Army and intelligence officials.
But Clinton and Mullen also were telling Pakistan it must show renewed commitment to U.S. security interests, chiefly to eradicate safe havens for militants who attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The pair hammered home a warning that lower-ranking U.S. officials have been making to Pakistan since the bin Laden raid: The billions of dollars in military and development aid that flow to Pakistan annually will dwindle if Pakistan is seen to play both sides.
Mullen and Clinton were meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and the nation's army and spy chiefs in back to back meetings under extremely tight security. Clinton's visit was not announced in advance for fear of an assassination attempt or terror strike.
Clinton and Mullen are the highest-ranking U.S. officials to confer with Pakistani leaders since the raid, which splintered already fragile support in both countries for the agenda of cooperation that top U.S. and Pakistani officials say they want.
In Paris on Thursday, Clinton acknowledged that Pakistan has not always done all that the U.S. wanted to go after militants hiding on its soil. Pakistan has waged a two-year campaign against militants targeting the weak U.S.-backed government but has done little to expunge safe havens for militants who attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The U.S. will keep pressing that point and trying to strengthen a relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan, Clinton said, because it's in the long-term security interest of the U.S. to do so.
"There have been times when we wanted to push harder, and for various reasons they have not," Clinton said. "Those differences are real. They will continue." She added strong praise for Pakistani cooperation since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying the country had allowed the killing of "more terrorists than anyplace else in the world."
Pakistan's prime minister said Thursday that his country will use "all appropriate means" to attack militant hideouts inside the country, amid rising criticism of the nation's security forces in the wake of a deadly 16-hour assault on a naval base last weekend.
Yousuf Raza Gilani gave no indication the army was considering new offensives along the Afghan border, where most of the militants in Pakistan are based along with other groups and affiliates who are the greatest danger to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The United States wants to see action in the North Waziristan region especially, where a deadly Afghan Taliban faction is based, to help it put pressure on Afghan insurgents and enable it to begin withdrawing troops later this summer after 10 years of war.
"We do have a set of expectations that we are looking for the Pakistani government to meet," Clinton said, but "it is not as though they have been on the sidelines."
The U.S. raid on May 2 that killed bin Laden has enraged Pakistanis and undermined the credibility of the country's military.
The Pakistani government has demanded that some U.S. military counterterror trainers leave the country. Pakistani leaders also have done little to tamp down anti-American fervor following the bin Laden raid, and at times have appeared to whip it up.
The U.S. has been quietly helping train Pakistan security forces in the northwest, but that cooperation has faltered after the bin Laden raid.