US General David Petraeus met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other top officials today in what was described by the general as a “very frank and very forthright” conversation, during which the Pakistani officials asked if the United States would be so kind as to stop launching unilateral drone strikes onto their territory.
President Zardari told Gen. Petraeus, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, that the strikes are creating a “credibility gap” in that it is increasingly difficult to for the government to explain to its electorate why one of its closest allies continues launching attacks along its border. While a statement from the President’s office said that “US leadership has affirmed respect for Pakistan’s territorial integrity,” but he appears to have been unsuccessful in obtaining a firm guarantee from General Petraeus that the attacks would halt.
It is the most high ranking official visit by the US military official to the troubled nation since Admiral Michael Mullen’s hastily arranged mid-September visit. During the visit Admiral Mullen promised the US would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, a statement which would have carried more weight had the US not launched yet another drone strike just hours after he left the country.
For its part, the White House says it is continuing to work with the Pakistani government in a “co-operative spirit,” though spokeswoman Dana Perino said the “dangerous people with dangerous weapons have to be either reconciled or dealt with another way,” making the prospect of an end to US strikes unlikely in the near term.