ISLAMABAD: Head of American CIA Leon Panetta begins a crucial visit to Islamabad on Wednesday to review President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy with the Pakistani leadership.
Although there was no official word from either side about the CIA chief’s visit, as traditionally such trips are kept away from the media glare, a senior Foreign Office official confirmed the visit saying Panetta will meet the country’s top civil and military leadership during his two-day stay here.
The official, who requested not to be identified, told The Express Tribune that the CIA chief will meet President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and his Pakistani counterpart Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Phasha.
Panetta’s visit comes at a time when top US commander in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus disclosed that certain high-profile Taliban leaders have reached out to the Afghan government.
His discussions with Pakistani leaders are expected to focus on the current situation in Afghanistan and possible peace-making with the Taliban in line with President Hamid Karzai’s Afghan reconciliation plan that he outlined earlier this year. Also on the table will be the increased US drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas, particularly in North Waziristan that have witnessed a drastic upsurge in recent weeks.
The New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying that as part of its covert war in the region, the CIA launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month.
Pakistan publicly condemns such attacks. However, American officials claim that there has been tacit understanding between the two countries on the use of drone technology to take out ‘high value targets.’
Official sources claim the political uncertainty prevailing in the country against the backdrop of speculations of change will also figure in the discussions, as the US is concerned that any instability in Pakistan would negatively impact its anti-terror campaign.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2010.
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