Pakistan pledges more than three dozen CIA visas

The visas are part of an agreement to rebuild counter-terrorism efforts by forming a joint intelligence team.

Islamabad: Pakistan has pledged to grant more than three dozen visas to CIA officers as part of confidence-building measures following the US raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and humiliated Pakistan, officials from both countries said Wednesday, but the visas have not yet been issued.

The visas are part of an agreement to rebuild counterterrorism efforts by forming what Pakistani officials call a joint intelligence team, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The agreement was reached after talks in Islamabad between Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and top CIA officials, including CIA director Leon Panetta, the officials said.

The visas will help replenish CIA staff on the ground, as some staffers were forced to leave when their visas were not renewed in the aftermath of the controversy over CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot two Pakistanis to death in the city of Lahore, the USofficial said. He was released after it was arranged that the families of the dead men would receive compensation.

There will also be some additional officers allowed in to join the enhanced joint intelligence effort to hunt high value al Qaeda targets, the official added.

Despite repeated promises and assurances from Pakistani officials, the visas have yet to be issued, officials from both sides said. The Pakistanis say it`s simply a matter of time but would not say when they would be given.

The covert US Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden last month in Abbottabad, an army town not far outside Islamabad, severely strained relations between the US and Pakistan.

Pakistan was outraged that the UScarried out the raid without telling it first. US officials said they kept the raid secret because they were worried bin Laden would be tipped off.

US officials have also questioned how bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for at least five years without the Pakistanis knowing, although they have found no evidence that senior military or government officials were aware of his presence.

US attempts to rebuild the relationship with Pakistan have been bumpy.

American officials say they have shared intelligence on four bomb-making factories in Pakistan`s tribal areas, but militants were intentionally or inadvertently tipped off before Pakistani forces them. Pakistani military officials have denied they tipped off the militants.

Bureau Report

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