WASHINGTON – The new chief of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency held talks in the United States on Wednesday after a prolonged gap as the countries look to renew their uneasy cooperation in battling extremists.
Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam is the first head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to visit Washington in a year. He comes just after Pakistan agreed to give NATO convoys access to its border with Afghanistan.
Islam held meetings Wednesday at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a person familiar with his trip said. Spokespeople for the CIA and Pakistani embassy declined comment.
The ISI and the military have long been major power centers inside Pakistan and both were deeply embarrassed when US forces carried out a secret raid in May 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden in the military city of Abbottabad.
Islam was appointed in March after the retirement of ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who led the agency since September 2008.
Pakistan agreed to support the United States in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks but shut its border to NATO convoys in November last year after a US air strike killed 24 Pakistani troops.
Islamabad reopened land routes seven months later after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said sorry over the deaths.
On Tuesday, Pakistan signed a deal to let convoys through until the end of 2015, in a major relief for the United States, which plans to pull most troops out of Afghanistan before then.
The United States and Pakistan have also been deeply divided over unmanned US air strikes against militants, with Islamabad saying that the drones violate the country’s sovereignty and increase anti-US sentiment.
The United States believes that the raids kill extremists who would otherwise be unreachable. An attack on Sunday killed at least seven militants, officials said.
Tensions were already high before the bin Laden raid after a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011. Pakistan released Davis after $2 million was paid in blood money to the victims’ families.