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Kerry Visits Pakistan Amid Tension Over Bin Laden

This article is more than 12 years old.

Update: According to a joint statement, the U.S. and Pakistan have agreed to work together in any future actions against "high value targets" in Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries have been badly strained following the U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

Pakistan's powerful army chief has told visiting U.S. Sen. John Kerry that his soldiers have "intense feelings" about the American raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, a sign that the senator may face angry questions during meetings with civilian and military leaders here on Monday.

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, himself comes bearing a tough message. While in Afghanistan on Sunday, he said Pakistan and the U.S. had reached a critical juncture in their relationship amid suspicion that elements of Pakistan's security forces helped harbor bin Laden.

Bin Laden was killed by U.S Navy SEALs in a May 2 raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad in Pakistan's northwest. He is believed to have lived in a large compound in the city for years, not far from the Pakistan's premier military academy.

Pakistani civilian and military leaders deny knowing where bin Laden was and say they are angry the U.S. staged the raid without warning.

In a parliamentary resolution Saturday, lawmakers warned of consequences if such incursions occur in the future, and demanded the U.S. also stop drone strikes on Pakistani territory or Islamabad may stop NATO and U.S. trucks from using its land routes to ferry supplies across the border to troops in Afghanistan.

Kerry met with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani late Sunday night, the Pakistani military said in a press release.

Kayani, who is effectively the most powerful man in Pakistan, "apprised the visiting dignitary about intense feelings of rank and file of Pakistan Army on Abbotabad incident," the release said in an apparent reference to anger among soldiers.

The release also said that during Kerry's meetings with civilian and military leaders Monday, there would be a "detailed discussion" on Pakistan-U.S. ties. President Asif Ali Zardari's office, meanwhile, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called him Sunday to discuss the fallout in Pakistan over the raid.

Kerry is the most senior American official to travel to Pakistan since the raid on bin Laden took place. The visit comes as some American lawmakers are calling for a cutoff to the billions of dollars in aid the U.S. gives to Pakistan.

Kerry made clear to reporters in Afghanistan that patience was running thin in Washington, where many have long suspected that Pakistan aids and abets Afghan Taliban and other militant groups.

"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 in Kabul.

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.

Much is at stake. The United States needs Pakistan's cooperation if it hopes to find a solution to the Afghan war and help a reconciliation process that hopes to fashion a nonmilitary solution to the Taliban insurgency. It also needs Pakistan's military help against insurgents using its lawless tribal areas to stage attacks against American, coalition and Afghan forces.

It also needs to ensure that nuclear-armed Pakistan does not succumb to rising Islamic extremism and its own tenacious insurgency, which has cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.

Pakistan also has much to lose.

Its failing economy desperately needs American and other foreign aid. Since 2002, Pakistan has received more than $20 billion from the U.S., making the country one of the largest U.S. aid recipients, according to the Congressional Research Service. Nearly $9 billion of that has been in the form of reimbursements for Pakistan's costs to support the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

This program aired on May 16, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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