Reporting from Karachi, Pakistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a two-day summit with his Pakistani counterparts that is expected to focus on efforts to forge a truce with the Taliban after years of militant violence in both countries.
But analysts said they saw little hope of concrete progress from his meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, given lingering distrust and security problems on their shared lawless border.
"I don't expect anything substantive to come out of this," said Mahmood Shah, a Pakistani analyst and retired brigadier. "Both sides have an interest in reintegrating the Taliban, but I don't see anything much."
Separately, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta met Friday with the two officials who some here say really run Pakistan — spy chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and army head Gen. Ashfaq Kayani — on how to improve relations between Washington and Islamabad. Ties have been strained since the U.S. raid last month in which Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
Panetta's relationship with Pasha and Kayani will be important in his new role, assuming Senate confirmation, as Defense secretary.
Pakistan was shaken by the raid on Bin Laden's compound in an army town two hours' drive from Islamabad, the capital. Pakistan was not informed in advance, sparking sovereignty concerns as well as embarrassment over suspicions that the military either didn't know of Bin Laden's whereabouts or harbored him.
Islamabad has shown its displeasure with the U.S. by forcing out most U.S. Army trainers based in the country. This week it also said it no longer wanted Washington's massive financial assistance, although most analysts believe this was a bluff.
Mistrust has also been a significant feature in Pakistani-Afghan relations in recent years. Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of harboring militants who use its territory to launch attacks, citing as an example the discovery that Bin Laden was living there.
Pakistan counters that it has no interest in protecting militants, pointing out that many of its own people have suffered from terrorism, including in a recent attack on its security forces apparently launched from the Afghan side of the border. Some Pakistanis also say they suspect the Afghan government of meddling in Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province.
Yet relations have improved in recent months as Pakistani leaders have tried to strengthen ties by playing on Afghan discontent with the U.S. and arguing that China is the resident superpower, not America, analysts said.
"Close engagement between our political, military and intelligence institutions is vital for durable peace and stability in our two countries," Zardari said at a dinner Friday.
Karzai's visit comes within weeks of an expected U.S. troop reduction in Afghanistan that could ultimately leave a power vacuum and force regional players to jockey for position. The U.S. has been urging Afghan forces to take greater responsibility for their nation's security, although progress has been slow.
Pakistani leaders will also want to hear whether Karzai would allow the U.S. to keep bases in Afghanistan after the bulk of its troops withdraws, something Pakistan opposes.
Karzai is accompanied by several senior officials, including Afghanistan's defense, interior and commerce ministers. The two sides are expected to sign the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
Shah, the retired brigadier, said Pakistan may find itself under U.S. pressure to allow road traffic between Afghanistan and India, Pakistan's main rival. "Although the Pakistan government may agree, its people won't accept this," he said.
Times staff writer Laura King in Kabul, Afghanistan, and special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.