ISLAMABAD (AP) — The new U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan met with top officials in Islamabad on Monday during his first trip to the region since taking the position previously held by the late Richard Holbrooke.
Marc Grossman’s visit comes as U.S.-Pakistani relations are at a low point due to the dispute over an American CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis. Washington says the man, Raymond Allen Davis, has diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense against robbers. Pakistan has resisted releasing him, saying the matter is up to the courts.
The U.S. Embassy said Grossman met late Sunday with Pakistan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. Pakistan’s economy is struggling and the U.S. has offered aid and advice to shore it up. But the ruling Pakistan People’s Party has had a hard time persuading even some of its allies to go along with economic reforms demanded by international lenders, such as a new sales tax.
Grossman, who was appointed to the post in February, also was to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari and other top officials Monday, said Alberto Rodriguez, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Grossman previously served as the State Department’s third-ranking diplomat under President George W. Bush and was an ambassador to Turkey. Grossman retired from the foreign service in 2005, later working for the Cohen Group, a consulting firm run by former Defense Secretary William Cohen.
In taking the job as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Grossman will be stepping into enormous shoes left by Holbrooke, who died in December of a ruptured aorta. Holbrooke was put in charge of a broad policy review that led to changes in priorities in dealing with insurgencies in the two countries and hopes for improved cooperation.
The Davis case has been a major setback to cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S., and it likely will figure in Grossman’s talks with Pakistan leaders. Davis faces potential murder charges if Pakistan chooses to ignore U.S. assertions that he is immune from prosecution under international agreements covering diplomats.