Pakistan and Washington Prepare for High Level Talks

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

US President Barack Obama speaks while flanked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L) and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (R). (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Is Pakistan our ally or is it home to our greatest threat? President Obama and his national security team, who already grapple with that question on a daily basis, will be examining it again as high level Pakistani officials arrive in Washington later this week. Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and General Ashfaq Kayani, the head of Pakistan's military who is thought to be the most powerful man in the country, head to Washington at a particularly contentious time of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

It's been three weeks since a NATO helicopter accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan-Pakistan border in late September, straining relations. On the other hand, U.S. officials plan to offer the Pakistani delegation a multi-year security pact, something the Pakistani military has long wanted.

Christine Fair, professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, says the Obama administration will also need to talk about trade relations, the Afghan elections and questions over political corruption in the Pakistani government.

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