20 April, 2011
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Military, arrived in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Wednesday for talks with the Pakistani leadership to resolve issues presently straining relations between the two allied nations.
He has been a frequent visitor to Islamabad in recent days, with the latest trip marking his 22nd visit to Pakistan. He is expected to hold talks with Pakistan’s political and military leadership during his two-day stay in that country.
Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent weeks, mainly due to Islamabad’s objections to frequent U.S. drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan and clandestine CIA operations.
Since Barack Obama assumed office in January 2009, there has been a spurt in the number of attacks by suspected U.S. drones. Pakistani officials claim that at least 200 people, including civilians, have been killed in 2010 in more than 100 such drone strikes.
Although the U.S. military does not confirm or deny drone attacks, the American armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only entities capable of deploying such robot planes in the region.
U.S. drone strike on Taliban militants inside Pakistan
is a very sensitive issue in that country and the Pak government had protested strongly against such cross-border missile attacks in the past. Pakistan says that such attacks violate its sovereignty.
Further, relations between the two long-time allies were pushed to the brink after a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, shot dead two Pakistanis in broad daylight in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi after they allegedly tried to hijack his car.
The case resulted in a major diplomatic row, but the issue was resolved after the victims’ families pardoned Davis on receiving compensation known as “blood money.” Subsequently, a court released him from detention.
Mullen’s Pakistan visit follows a trip to neighboring Afghanistan, where he visited American troops battling a resurgent Taliban insurgency in the war-torn Asian country. While in Afghanistan, Mullen had admitted that relations between Pakistan and the United States was passing through a difficult phase.
Mullen also said he would raise the issue of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of maintaining contacts with Taliban militants operating in the lawless North Waziristan tribal area along the Pak-Afghan border when he meets Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani in Islamabad.
Taliban militants have been using the region as a base for carrying out attacks against foreign coalition troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The United States and other countries fighting Taliban in Afghanistan have accused Islamabad in the past of not doing enough against the militants in Pakistan.