WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and Pakistani spy chiefs exchanged grievances in their first official meeting this week, sources familiar with the discussions said on Friday, but it was unclear if the two uneasy allies made any progress to end deep divisions on militants living in Pakistani tribal areas or on U.S. drone strikes.
Lieutenant-General Zaheer ul-Islam, who was named in March to head the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), on his first official visit to Washington met on Thursday with CIA Director David Petraeus at CIA headquarters.
Ahead of his visit, Pakistani officials said the country’s spy chief would call for an end to U.S. military drone strikes in volatile areas bordering Afghanistan and push for a sharing of technology and intelligence.
The public preview of Pakistani demands on Petraeus appeared to have displeased U.S. officials, who pushed back at the notion they might cede to Pakistani requests.
The United States and Pakistan are seeking to repair relations that have suffered over the past 20 months, in part because of the unilateral U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, 2011, and a U.S. air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
The two countries reached a breakthrough last month with a deal that reopened ground supply routes that NATO nations use to supply troops in neighboring Afghanistan, which had been closed since the November air attack along the Afghan border.
The Obama administration is deeply suspicious of Pakistan, which it believes harbors militants, while Pakistan accuses Washington of disregarding its own human toll from militancy and says drone strikes violate its sovereignty.
While sources familiar with the discussions said the two spy chiefs aired mutual grievances, they did not appear to have made big strides on the main issues.
Other sources familiar with the talks this week said that Pakistani officials asked the United States to go after militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan that were used to launch attacks across the border in Pakistan - a mirror image of long-standing American requests - along with an end to drone strikes and help hunting down remnants of al Qaeda.
Washington has prodded Islamabad to go after militants who launch cross-border attacks from Pakistan’s tribal areas on U.S. troops in Afghanistan before returning to their safe havens.
Pakistan’s parliament has demanded an end to the drone strikes, but the sources in Washington indicated that U.S. officials did not yield to those demands.
“The discussions today between General Zahir and Director Petraeus were substantive, professional, and productive,” a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
“Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to counter the terrorist presence in the region that threatens both U.S. and Pakistani national security.”
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, U.S. officials signaled there would be little, if any, change in U.S. counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan and the region.
The Obama administration is pressuring Pakistan to take action in particular against the Haqqani network, a militant group allied with the Taliban that is blamed for some of the boldest attacks against Western and Afghan government targets in Afghanistan.
Pakistan responds that it is doing all it can against militants, but notes that extremists attack its own civilians and soldiers.
Reporting By Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria; and Missy Ryan; Editing by Vicki Allen and Philip Barbara