FBI head visits Pakistan amid tensions

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 12:54 PM
FBI head visits Pakistan amid tensions

FBI Director Robert Mueller visted Pakistan Wednesday as tensions between the two countries spike over U.S. demands that Islamabad crack down on Afghan militants it alleges find shelter on Pakistani soil.

A Pakistani government statement said that Mueller met with Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad for talks on how to bolster counterterrorism cooperation.

U.S. officials declined to discuss the visit, which comes one day after both countries agreed to limit the number of American troops in Pakistan.

Uneasy relations between the United States and Pakistan further soured this year, particularly after U.S. marines killed Osama bin Laden May 2 in Pakistan without coordinating the attack with officials there first. Islamabad has also expressed anger with American drone strikes into the country, which have killed wanted militants as well as civilians.

Pakistani leaders see the U.S. military actions inside Pakistan as violations of its sovereignty. But U.S. leaders say that unless Pakistan goes after insurgents within its own borders who are attacking and killing American troops, the U.S. will act on its own.

U.S. officials have accused Islamabad of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, a band of Islamist fighters that Washington says are behind attacks in Afghanistan, including last week's attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week that there is a "proxy connection" between Pakistani intelligence services and the Haqqanis, which are believed to have bases in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told her Pakistani counterpart, Hina Rabbani Khar, that the Taliban-affiliated militants must be dealt with, according to U.S. officials, who spoke about the private meeting on condition of anonymity.

Ten years on, since the start of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the country is still reeling from instability and violence. Washington is urging Pakistan take on the Haqqanis, but Pakistan's army has yet to launch any offensive in North Waziristan. This has led to speculation that Islamabad is seeking to protect the Haqqani network because it views the group as a potential ally in neighboring Afghanistan after the United States withdraws.

Pakistan has a history of using militants as proxies in Afghanistan and India, but over the past five years has found itself a staging ground for suicide attacks and violence from extremists, some of whom the country once aided.

Earlier Wednesday, suspected militants opened fire on an army helicopter flying in northwest Pakistan, wounding a regional commander inside the aircraft. The chopper was flying over the Dir region near the Afghan border when it was attacked, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

He said Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal was shot in the leg during the incident, but that the chopper was able to keep flying.

Iqbal is the commanding officer in Pakistan's northern Swat Valley, which the army wrestled from Taliban hands in 2009.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, mourners gathered Wednesday around the caskets of Shiite Muslim pilgrims killed while traveling by bus through the country's southwest on their way to Iran. Some 26 people were killed in Tuesday's attack, officials and survivors said.

Sunni militants with ideological and operational links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings against Shiites in recent years.