ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The U.S. and Pakistan agreed Monday to work together in any future actions against “high value targets” in Pakistan, even as U.S. Sen. John Kerry defended Washington’s decision not to tell Islamabad in advance about the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The pledge, which was made in a joint statement, could help mollify Pakistani officials and citizens, who were enraged that one of the country’s most important allies would conduct a unilateral operation on its soil. But details of the promised cooperation were unclear.
It was also unclear whether Kerry, the most high-profile American to visit Pakistan since the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden, was able to extract any promises from Pakistan to go after Afghan Taliban militants long believed to be holed up on Pakistani territory.
U.S. officials have increased pressure on Pakistan since bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, an army town only about 35 miles (55 kilometers) outside the capital, Islamabad. But they also seem to be trying to balance their anger, aware of the risk of wholly severing ties with the nuclear-armed country. Pakistan’s cooperation is considered vital to ending the war in Afghanistan.
Shortly after arriving Sunday, Kerry met with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and gave him a list of “specific demands” relating to American suspicions about Pakistan harboring militants, said a Pakistani official. He spoke on condition of anonymity and declined to give more details because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Kerry said Monday that he and Pakistani leaders have agreed to a “series of steps” to improve relations, but did not specify what they were. He also said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon announce plans to visit Pakistan — a sign of confidence in the relationship.
Many in Washington have expressed disbelief that bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for at least five years without Pakistan’s powerful security establishment knowing it. But U.S. officials have said they have found no evidence that Pakistan’s leaders knew of his whereabouts.
Kerry’s comments during his visit mixed a tone of defiance with promises to work with Pakistan to rebuild the bilateral relationship.
“My goal in coming here is not to apologize for what I consider to be a triumph against terrorism of unprecedented consequence,” said Kerry. “My goal in coming here has been to talk about how we manage this important relationship.”
Kerry, who chairs the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday.
Clinton also called Zardari late Sunday and Gilani on Monday, their offices said.
Kerry said he understood why Pakistanis were upset by the raid, but emphasized “the extraordinary circumstances” around the mission.
“When I spoke with the leaders of Pakistan last night and today, I explained that the extreme secrecy surrounding every aspect of the raid in Abbottabad was essential to protecting the lives of the professionals who were involved and ensuring they succeeded in capturing or killing the man responsible for so much death in so many places,” said Kerry.
Kayani, the army chief, told Kerry on Sunday that his soldiers have “intense feelings” about the raid, in apparent reference to anger and humiliation here that Washington did not tell the army in advance about the incursion, and the fact it wasn’t able to stop it.
Kerry said that bin Laden and other foreign fighters who followed him to Pakistan from Afghanistan were the ones “who truly violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.”