CIA's Panetta Meets With Officials in Pakistan to Press Fight Against Extremists

Leon E. Panetta, on his first overseas trip as CIA chief, also visited India.
Leon E. Panetta, on his first overseas trip as CIA chief, also visited India. (Saurabh Das - AP)
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Associated Press
Sunday, March 22, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 21 -- CIA Director Leon E. Panetta held high-level talks in Pakistan on Saturday as the Obama administration seeks a strategy to turn around the faltering war against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Panetta, on his first overseas trip since taking office last month, arrived from New Delhi, where Indian officials said they discussed the November terrorist attack in Mumbai, which has been blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.

The United States is concerned that political turmoil in Pakistan is distracting its government and army from combating Islamist insurgents threatening the stability of the nuclear-armed country and the surrounding region.

In a meeting with the CIA chief Saturday evening, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani stressed the need to resolve his country's 60-year dispute with India over the divided Kashmir region so that Pakistan can "singularly focus its attention in eradicating the menaces of extremism and terrorism," Gillani's office said in a statement.

Panetta expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation and said Washington was urgently lining up more economic assistance for Pakistan as well as equipment and training for its security forces, the statement said.

Neither Panetta, who later met Pakistan's president and interior minister, nor the U.S. Embassy made any public comment.

In a sign of U.S. frustration at Pakistan's failure to eradicate militant safe havens in its territory, unmanned aircraft operated by the CIA are believed to have carried out dozens of missile attacks in Pakistan's tribal regions along the Afghan border since last year.

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