WASHINGTON – With violence worsening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, top U.S. military officers secretly met commanders from Islamabad on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean to talk about what else could be done.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that he came away from the meeting encouraged that Pakistanis are focused on the problem of militants using the country as a safe haven. But he indicated he's thinks Islamabad or Washington can do a better job against the growing threat.
The meeting Tuesday came after several weeks of Pakistani offensives against militants in the country's volatile northwest — an effort American officials welcome but say has come nowhere near to stemming growing problems near the Afghan border.
The meeting aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln was the latest of several between Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Ashfaq Kayani, chief of staff of the Pakistani army.
Mullen told a Pentagon press conference that this time he also brought Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, who will soon leave to become the senior commander in the Middle East and Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of the Special Operations Command, and Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, acting commander of American forces in the Middle East.
Also present was Gen. David McKiernan, NATO's commander in Afghanistan and Rear Adm. Michael LeFever, American military liaison in Pakistan.
Mullen declined to give details about discussions with Kayani, but said he has been moving in the right direction.
"Clearly, he's got a challenge," he said. "I'm encouraged that he's taken action and I also think it's going to take some time."