Report: Pakistan cancels high-level CIA talks to protest aid cuts

Tensions between Islamabad and Washington again came to a boil on Monday, when Pakistan's head of intelligence abruptly canceled high-level talks with the CIA. 

The talks, slated for this week, would have been the first visit by Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam to Washington, according to reports in The Washington Post


Islam was scheduled to meet with CIA chief David Petraeus to discuss a slate of national-security challenges facing both countries. 

But the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) scrapped the visit due to "pressing commitments" back in Islamabad, according to a Pakistani military statement issued Monday. 

However, a top Pakistani official confirmed to the Post that the meeting was canceled due to growing furor in the country over American lawmakers' decision to slash U.S. aid to Pakistan. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted last week to cut $33 million for Pakistan, or $1 million for each year of a prison sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a doctor who helped the CIA locate al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Senate panel also voted to block $250 million in military aid until Pakistan reopens supply routes into Afghanistan to American and coalition forces. 

Gen. Martin Dempsey, President Obama’s top military adviser, said Monday that Senate lawmakers made the right call by voting to trim aid to Pakistan.

“I think ... choices should result in consequences. And I think the Senate acted appropriately,” said Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking on NBC.

Still, the move has put the Pentagon and State Department in the difficult position of defending the funding cuts while trying to negotiate a deal to reopen key supply routes in Pakistan.

Renewed American drone strikes along Pakistan's northern border with Afghanistan have only pushed both sides farther away from the negotiating table. 

American drones launched fresh airstrikes against suspected terrorist targets along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last Wednesday. 

The attack was the third executed by U.S. military and intelligence forces since March, according to recent news reports. 

Cancellation of the controversial U.S. counterterrorism tactic has been a key demand by Pakistan before the supply routes are reopened. 

Afridi's conviction had added another difficult wrinkle to the complicated and tenuous relationship between the United States and Pakistan. 

Information provided by Afridi led, in part, to last May's Navy SEAL raid against bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad that ended with the death of the al Qaeda mastermind. 

Pakistani officials were not notified about the U.S. raid until after the mission. Islamabad claims the attack was in direct violation of the country's sovereignty. 

Despite these concerns, sources tell the Post that CIA officials and their ISI counterparts are working to reschedule the meeting between Petraeus and Islam.