Admiral Michael Mullen arrived in Pakistan today on a hastily arranged, unannounced visit. He will hold meetings with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and Chief of Army Staff. The visit comes one day after a reported border incident in which Pakistani troops opened fire on US helicopters attempting to raid a South Waziristan village, though both militaries have officially denied that the event took place.
This will be the second meeting between Admiral Mullen and General Kayani recently, as they met secretly late last month on the USS Abraham Lincoln. It will also be the first public contact General Kayani has had with any American officials since his announcement last week that the Pakistani military would bar foreign forces from operating on Pakistani soil.
Ties between the United States and Pakistan have become increasingly tense since an attack earlier this month by US forces on a tiny village in South Waziristan killed 20 civilians. As Pakistani officials denounced the move, the US has launched multiple airstrikes in North Waziristan, killing dozens more. Earlier this week it was reported that the attacks were not an isolated incident but rather the beginning of a three stage plan of escalating American attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Pakistan’s newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari is presently visiting London, and has warned that the cross border raids are harming democracy in his country. He said, however, that he doesn’t “think there will be any more”. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani has also called for an immediate end to the US incursions.
Analysts say that the United States is unlikely to continue commando raids given the instability of the Pakistani government and the harshly negative reaction from the Pakistani populace. That said, US drones have reportedly been seen around South Waziristan this evening, suggesting that the US escalation is far from over.
The US State Department has also called for Pakistan to overhaul its Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The United States has long claimed that the ISI has ties to militant groups, including claiming they had a role in a July attack on India’s embassy in Afghanistan.