ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
U.S.-Pakistan relations are at a crossroads. Today, U.S. Senator John Kerry was in Pakistan, trying to calm the fury there over the covert operation that killed Osama bin Laden. But there is fury here, too, among many of Kerry's colleagues in Congress. They are outraged that bin Laden could have lived for so long inside Pakistan, a country that receives considerable U.S. aid, money that's now in jeopardy.
Senator Kerry told a news conference that as a goodwill gesture, Pakistan has agreed to return the tail of the helicopter that crashed during the U.S. mission.
From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy has the story.
JULIE McCARTHY: The return of the helicopter tail was a small breakthrough in the deeply fraught U.S.-Pakistan relations that Senator Kerry came to mend. But on the larger questions, little was said, such as how did bin Laden live undiscovered for five years in Pakistan, or what are Pakistan's plans to uncover any other high-value targets possibly residing on its soil, or how Pakistan would rein in the Haqqani network that's killing NATO troops in Afghanistan or its own homegrown web of militants. While short on specifics, Kerry acknowledged that these questions had all been raised.
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): And I can tell you we discussed every single one of them. Our primary objective is getting this relationship back on track, and, indeed, focusing on the sanctuaries and focusing on the threat to Afghanistan, to our troops and to our security. That's what's in our interest and that's our focus.
McCARTHY: Kerry said Pakistan had agreed to several immediate steps despite the resentment against the United States for not telling the Pakistanis in advance of the bin Laden operation. The seniormost U.S. official to visit Pakistan since the anti-American clamor, Kerry said a stalled dialogue had at least restarted with candor, and that included the deep skepticism conveyed to Pakistanis of many in Washington who wonder about an alleged complicity with militants and whether the relationship is worth all the money that lawmakers provide Pakistan.
Sen. KERRY: The make or break is real, as we know members of Congress who aren't confident that it can be patched back together again, and that is why actions, and not words, are going to be critical to earning their votes in the United States Congress. I am very understanding of that. But I'm very, very hopeful that if we approach this the right away, I think we can make genuine progress, and I hope we will.
McCARTHY: In a joint statement, the United States and Pakistan agreed to work together on any future actions against high-value targets in Pakistan. But analyst Cyril Almeida says the U.S. does not trust Pakistan to share intelligence on such targets as the Taliban's Mullah Omar or bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. He says there may be an uptick in Pakistani cooperation, but only in the short term.
Mr. CYRIL ALMEIDA: The question is, yeah, is our commitment to a long-term dogged pursuit of al-Qaida inside Pakistan -is that commitment evident? I don't think it is right now, and I think Pakistan will have to prove that it exists.
McCARTHY: Referring to congressional threats to cut aid to Pakistan, retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood cautions the United States to be patient. He says punishing Pakistan might satisfy the American need to express displeasure, but it could produce unhappy consequences. An already weak civilian government could be further endangered.
Mr. TALAT MASOOD (Retired Lieutenant General, Pakistan): I think if you push Pakistan too hard then ultimately it will get destabilized. And then when it gets destabilized, what happens then?
McCARTHY: Masood said there's always the threat of a military takeover and there is perennial concern about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, said to be the fastest growing in the world. But the U.S.-Pakistan statement welcomed what it called Senator Kerry's clear affirmation that the U.S. has no designs on Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.
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