Islamabad, May 27 : US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today arrived in Pakistan on a surprise visit amid severe strains in bilateral ties following the American raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden earlier this month.
Clinton and US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who arrived here last night, will hold crucial talks with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders aimed at easing tensions caused by the discovery of bin Laden in a garrison city located just 80 kms from the federal capital.
She is expected to pressure the Pakistan government to take more steps to flush out terrorists from the country.
The two US leaders will meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.
Clinton will hold “sober” talks about the need for Pakistan to root out terrorists, a senior US State Department official told CNN.
The Pakistanis “are on thin ice”, another senior unnamed official said.
Unlike previous visits in which Clinton unveiled initiatives for US assistance to Pakistan, the officials said she will warn that American aid “is in jeopardy” unless Pakistan makes progress on several key US points.
Clinton will lay out “certain benchmarks” for the Pakistani government to meet, they said.
Specifically, Clinton will tell the Pakistani leaders that the US is looking for the country to demonstrate its willingness to go after senior al-Qaeda targets, take action against factories producing improvised explosive devices for use against US troops in Afghanistan and to support Taliban reconciliation, the officials said.
Ahead of her visit, Clinton pressed Pakistan to act decisively to fight terrorism.
“We do have a set of expectations that we are looking for the Pakistani government to meet but I want to underscore, in conclusion, that it is not as though they have been on the sidelines,” she told a news conference in Paris yesterday.
Clinton's visit comes a day after the US announced it was withdrawing some of its military personnel from Pakistan at Islamabad's request.
The Pentagon said it had received a request from the Pakistan government to reduce military presence in the country.
The Pakistan government described the May 2 US raid that killed bin Laden as a violation of its sovereignty.
Prime Minister Gilani warned that Pakistan will respond with “full force” to any future unilateral American raids. PTI