US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday to follow up on discussions Senator John Kerry had earlier this week with the Pakistani leadership, in a bid to ease tensions between the United States and Pakistan in the aftermath of the US raid on Abbottabad.
Grossman is leading a delegation of senior officials, said the US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad but would not give further details.
Grossman and the other members of his delegation will meet the country’s top political and military leadership as part of efforts from both sides to put the process of engagement back on track, which had been affected since the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2.
US Senator John Kerry’s visit on Monday helped ease the tension as the two countries agreed to work together in any future action against ‘high value targets’ in Pakistan. Kerry reported back to his colleagues in the United States Congress that Pakistan had agreed to take a series of measures to show its commitment to defeat terrorism.
Questions have been raised about the commitment of Pakistan’s security forces to defeat al Qaeda in the wake of the world’s most wanted man’s presence in a city where the military has strong presence.
However, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday bailed out the Pakistani leadership. At a press conference at the Pentagon, Gates said that there was no evidence that senior Pakistani leaders, civilian or military, had any knowledge of Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad.
US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen also struck a conciliatory note saying breakdown in ties with Pakistan will have negative repercussions.
Official sources say Marc Grossman’s discussions with the Pakistani leaders will help pave the way for the visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Islamabad later this year.
The US State Department said his trip will ‘lay the groundwork for her eventual visit.’
The talks will also decide the future of strategic dialogue between the two countries, currently delayed due to the mutual suspicion and distrust that overwhelmed the relationship after the death of the al Qaeda leader.
Meanwhile, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell will also visit Islamabad in coming days following the visit of Marc Grossman. He will meet senior Pakistani intelligence officials to work out modalities for intelligence sharing on ‘high value targets.’
Pakistan’s security establishment is also looking for increased intelligence sharing from the CIA, which withheld the key information on Bin Laden.
The relations between the ISI and CIA have been rocky in recent months following the involvement of an American intelligence operative in the killing of two Pakistanis in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.