Kerry in Pakistan with tough questions, meets army

ISLAMABAD: U.S. Senator John Kerry met Pakistan’s powerful army chief on Sunday to press for answers on Osama bin Laden, but he will also be keen to ensure Pakistani anger over the U.S. raid does not subvert security cooperation.U.S. special forces found and killed bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad, 50 km (30 miles) north of Islamabad, on May 2.His discovery living comfortably in a high-walled compound virtually under the noses of military authorities has revived suspicion that Pakistani security agencies knew where he was.Pakistan welcomed bin Laden’s killing as a big step against militancy but it is angry it was not told about the raid in advance.Pakistan’s parliament on Saturday condemned the secret helicopter-born assault on bin Laden as a violation of sovereignty and called for a review of relations with the United States.Military officials say the “unilateral” action by the United States against bin laden has caused a breakdown in trust which has cast a shadow over security cooperation.

Kerry, a Democrat close to the Obama administration and who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan where he said the United States wanted Pakistan to be a real ally in combating militancy.He met army chief General Ashfaq Kayani at army headquarters, a military official said, but gave no details.Pakistan is vital to U.S. efforts to combat Islamist militants and to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, where U.S. forces depend on Pakistani supply lines for water, food, fuel and other essentials.The U.S. administration has not accused Pakistan of complicity in hiding bin Laden but has said he must have had some sort of support network, which it wants to uncover.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to President Asif Ali Zardari by telephone about the situation since bin Laden’s death, Zardari’s office said, adding Zardari told Clinton about parliament’s concerns.”Both agreed to resolve the issues amicably and move forward,” the office said.

In a sign of Pakistani anger, the chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, on Friday canceled a five-day visit to the United States that had been set to begin on May 22.But officials in Pakistan’s civilian government said security cooperation with the United States would go on.”There is difference of opinion but we’ll continue our cooperation with the world as well as the United States,” said one senior government official who declined to be identified.Kerry is due to hold talks with other leaders on Monday.Kerry has long been seen as a friend of Pakistan but told reporters in Afghanistan at the weekend that serious questions remained after the killing of bin Laden.While Pakistan needed to improve its efforts, the death of bin Laden provided a critical chance to move forward, he said.

7″We obviously want a Pakistan that is prepared to respect the interests of Afghanistan, and to be a real ally in our efforts to combat terrorism,” Kerry told reporters in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.We believe there are things that can be done better,” he said. “But we’re not trying to find a way to break the relationship apart, we’re trying to find a way to build it.”U.S. legislators have questioned whether Pakistan is serious about fighting militants and some have called for a suspension of U.S. aid.Pakistan has rejected as absurd suggestions the killing showed incompetence or complicity in hiding the al Qaeda leader.Kerry said earlier it was “extraordinarily hard to believe” bin Laden could have been in Pakistan for so long without any knowledge.Kerry, speaking a day after two suicide bombers killed 80 people at a Pakistani paramilitary academy, said Pakistan was a victim of extremism and faced its own tough decisions.Pakistan has a long record of using Islamist militants as proxies, especially to counter the influence of nuclear-armed rival, India.  – Yahoonews