In a meet unusual for its high level of secrecy, Admiral Mike Mullen and General David Petraeus met with the head of Pakistan’s military, General Ashfaq Kayani, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The meeting focused primarily on the increased fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and the increasing problem of militant infiltration back and forth across the desolate, mountainous border. It is the fifth such meeting between General Kayani and Admiral Mullen, but the first to involve incoming CENTCOM head General Petraeus.
General Kayani has been the Chief of Army Staff since November of last year, when he replaced long-standing head Pervez Musharraf. Before that he spent three years as the head of Pakistan’s powerful and controversial Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which the United States accused earlier this month of long-standing and close ties with Pakistani militant groups.
General Kayani has been described as a quiet man, and while loyal to former President Musharraf, was never seen as part of his inner-circle. He also envisions a radically different role for the military in Pakistani society than his predecessor did, issuing orders shortly after his appointment forbidding soldiers from meeting with politicians and banning active-duty officers from holding positions in civilian government.
He has likewise shown a willingness to criticize US military operations in a way that Musharraf rarely did. In June, US air-strikes killed 11 Pakistani soldiers along the border between Afghanistan’s Kunar Province and Pakistan’s restive Bajaur Agency. The Pentagon shrugged off the incident, saying merely that the troops had been in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. Pakistan’s military was outraged by the incident however, claiming the strikes were too accurate and too intense to be a simple accident. General Kayani approved an official statement from the military at the time, condemning the attacks as “cowardly and unprovoked,” and briefly postponing the start of a US program designed to train Pakistani paramilitary units in fighting along the border.
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