The new director of the CIA held high-level talks in Pakistan after a provincial leader warned against expanding US missile strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside the country’s thinly policed border with Afghanistan.
Leon Panetta arrived in Pakistan on Saturday on his first overseas trip since taking office as the Obama administration seeks a strategy to turn around the faltering war against Taliban militants in neighboring Afghanistan.
The US is concerned that political turmoil in Pakistan is distracting its government and army from combating Islamist insurgents threatening the stability of the nuclear-armed country and the surrounding region.
Panetta arrived from New Delhi, where Indian officials said they discussed the November terrorist attack in Mumbai, which has been blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.
In a meeting with the CIA chief on Saturday evening, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani stressed the need to resolve his country’s 60-year dispute with India over the divided Kashmir region so that Pakistan can “singularly focus its attention on eradicating the menaces of extremism and terrorism,” Gilani’s office said in a statement.
Panetta expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation and said Washington was urgently lining up more economic assistance for Pakistan, as well as equipment and training for its security forces, it said.
In a sign of US frustration at Islamabad’s failure to eradicate militant safe havens, unmanned aircraft operated by the CIA are believed to have carried out dozens of missile attacks in Pakistan’s wild tribal regions since last year.
US officials say the missile attacks have killed several senior figures in al-Qaeda, which Washington worries is plotting new Sept. 11-style attacks in the West and have significantly weakened the terror network’s organization.