WASHINGTON: The United States seems willing to look at options that do not involve drones, although it is not yet ready to end the strikes, a senior official source told Dawn on Friday.
The official, who was briefing journalists on ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam’s meetings in Washington, said the Pakistani delegation urged the Americans to stop the drone strikes at every opportunity they got.
Gen Islam completed his three-day official visit to the US capital on Friday with a series of consultations with senior American officials and lawmakers, both in and outside the intelligence fraternity.
On Thursday afternoon, he met CIA Director Gen David Petraeus, the first meeting between the two spy chiefs. “Substantive, professional and productive,” a senior US official told the US media when asked to describe the talks.
The meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, focused on “increasing intelligence cooperation” between the two spy agencies, said another official. “All meetings were linked to the effort to bring the contentious US-Pakistan relationship back on track,” the official added.
Both US and Pakistani sources insisted that “the most notable feature” of these meetings was “a new flexibility”, reflecting a mutual desire to understand each other’s positions on all issues.
One official said that Pakistan “raised the issue of US drone strikes at every meeting Gen Islam” held in Washington during the last two days. “And the Americans listened patiently.”
Pakistan also proposed a plan for jointly targeting militant hideouts in Fata, using Pakistani F-16s instead of the drones.
“This proposal was discussed at all levels and there were specific meetings on the drones as well,” said a Pakistani official.
The Americans are believed to have told the Pakistanis that while they could not stop the drone strikes right now, “they are considering ways forward that do not involve drones”.
Gen Islam’s visit “marked Pakistan’s commitment to engaging in all issues of shared interests. There seems to be a better understanding of Pakistan’s security concerns”, said another official.
The general’s meeting at the State Department, which US special envoy Marc Grossman chaired, focused on the reconciliation and peace process in Afghanistan.
In all meetings, the Americans emphasised their concerns on the activities of the Haqqani network, saying that the cross-border attacks the group launched from its hideouts in Fata were hurting the Afghan peace process.
They also urged Pakistan to expel the group from Fata and cooperate with Afghan and US officials in curbing its activities.