US, Pakistan need to build trust, Senator Feinstein
WASHINGTON: Noting that the new ISI chief was coming to the US for his first meeting with the CIA’s director, the head of the US Senate’s intelligence panel stressed the need for a better relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Select Committee on Intelligence, also offered her services to help improve this relationship.
“I think it’s very important. I would like to see an improved relationship. I’d like to do anything I possibly could to help that improved relationship,” Ms Feinstein said in response to a question at the World Affairs Council-Washington.
“I think there is a new head of the Pakistan intelligence unit. I think we have made very clear to Pakistan what our concerns are,” said the US lawmaker, giving the first official indication that the two sides have consulted each other on some of the issues to be raised during the ISI chief’s visit to Washington next week.
ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam is expected to meet CIA Director Gen David Petraeus in Washington on Aug 2. This will be the first meeting between the two spy chiefs and follows months of tensions between the two countries which brought this key relationship to almost a breaking point.
Reports in the US media say that the Zaheer-Petraeus meeting will focus on intelligence-sharing, Pakistan’s call for an end to US drone strikes in Fata and the US demand for expelling the Haqqani network from the tribal belt.
The situation, however, improved earlier this month when the United States apologised to Pakistan over an air raid that had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. Pakistan reciprocated by reopening the ground supply lines to Afghanistan it had closed after the raid.
Senator Feinstein also mentioned this positive change in her remarks.
“The Pakistanis agreeing to reopen the GLOCs, which are the routes in which equipment comes into Afghanistan, I think that’s a very good sign,” she said.
But to further improve this relationship, the senator emphasised the need to build trust. “I think it is very important. We need to develop trust. The trust is very low between the two countries,” she said, placing trust-building at the top of a list of measures needed to improve the ties. “We now have another problem with attacks coming from Pakistan directly into Afghanistan, and so there is a real need there for Pakistan to step up,” said the lawmaker while identifying another area where she felt there was an immediate need for corrective measures.
“This will be a test. Will they step up? Will they stop these attacks?” she asked.
Senator Feinstein identified the US raid into Abbottabad that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May last year as the main cause of friction between the United States and Pakistan. But she defended the US decision to raid the Al Qaeda chief’s compound without informing Islamabad.
“This was a very important take-down because this was the head of the movement to kill Americans, 3,000 of them, on 9/11 in those great buildings in New York City,” she said. “And that was a mission really very carefully and very well carried out.”While referring to Pakistan’s complaint that the US raided a city deep inside their territory without informing them, Senator Feinstein explained that the Americans also were hurt when their worst enemy was found in the garrison town of a friendly state.
“It is very difficult for most of us to believe that Osama bin Laden can live in a relatively large compound in a military-related community for over five years and that community does not know that he’s there,” she said.The senator also backed a congressional move to designate the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organisation.