US, Pakistan are strategic partners: Kerry
ISLAMABAD (PAN): Amid distrust between Washington and Islamabad in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, US Senator John Kerry on Monday called Pakistan and the United States “strategic partners with a common enemy”.
Kerry said he had held “constructive conversations” with Pakistan’s leaders but reiterated “grave concerns” over the presence in Pakistan of the al Qaeda terror chief and sanctuaries of US adversaries in Afghanistan.
Kerry also said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon announce plans to visit Pakistan.
“More importantly I explained that I am here with the backing of President (Barack) Obama, (US) ambassador (to Pakistan Cameron) Munter and their team to find a way to rebuild the trust between our two countries,” he said.
“We must never lose sight of this essential fact. We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism.
“Both of our countries have sacrificed… so much that it just wouldn’t make sense to see this relationship broken or abandoned,” he added.
Earlier, Kerry gave Pakistan's army chief a list of "specific demands" relating to American suspicions about Pakistan's harbor of militants.
US officials have increased pressure on Pakistan since the May 2 American raid in Abbottabad, a northwest Pakistan garrison town where bin-Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs.
But they also seem to be trying to balance their anger, aware of the risk of wholly severing ties with the nuclear-armed country. Pakistan's cooperation is considered vital to ending the war in Afghanistan.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the first American emissary to visit Pakistan since the raid. Known to be a friend of Pakistan, what he is told by Pakistani army and civilian leaders could be key to American policy going forward.
Kerry arrived late Sunday and went quickly to see army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, handing him the list of US demands, according to a Pakistani government official.
Kayani told Kerry his soldiers have "intense feelings" about the raid, in apparent reference to anger and humiliation here that Washington did not tell the army in advance about helicopter-borne raid, and the fact it was unable to stop the incursion.
President Asif Ali Zardari's office, meanwhile, said US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called him Sunday to discuss the raid's fallout in Pakistan. Clinton has spoken of the need to keep strong ties with Pakistan, and stressed there's no evidence yet its leaders knew of bin Laden's whereabouts.
While in Afghanistan on Sunday, Kerry made it clear to reporters that patience was running thin in Washington, where many have long suspected that Pakistan aids and abets Afghan Taliban and other militant groups. Many in Congress are saying that Washington should cut aid to the country.
"The important thing is to understand that major, significant events have taken place in last days that have a profound impact on what we have called the war on terror, a profound impact on our relationship as a result," Kerry said.
He added that "we need to find a way to march forward if it is possible. If it is not possible, there are a set of downside consequences that can be profound." He did not elaborate.
In a parliamentary resolution Saturday, Pakistani lawmakers did not mention the fact that bin Laden was living in the army town or the suspicions of collusion, but instead warned of the consequences if any more American incursions were take place in the future.
They also threatened to stop NATO and US trucks from using its land routes to ferry supplies across the border to troops in Afghanistan unless Washington does not stop missile attacks on its territory.
Pakistan's failing economy desperately needs American and other foreign aid. Since 2002, Pakistan has received more than $20 billion from the US, making the country one of the largest US aid recipients, according to the Congressional Research Service. Nearly $9 billion of that has been as reimbursements for Pakistan's costs to support the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan.
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