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Petraeus gets an earful in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani leaders, frustrated that they’re unable to curb U.S. missile strikes on Pakistani territory, publicly reproached Gen. David Petraeus on Monday during his first visit to this country as the new U.S. commander for the Middle East.

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, told Petraeus: “Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counterproductive and difficult to explain by a democratically elected government. It is creating a credibility gap,” according to a statement issued by president’s office.

Petraeus also met Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani and Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, who are reported to have delivered similar reproaches. However, the strikes, which have intensified during the past two months, killing dozens and causing a public uproar in Pakistan, are expected to continue.

Petraeus pointedly made Pakistan his first visit to the region, after last week assuming charge of American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, as the head of the U.S. Central Command. One of his top priorities is to develop a new strategy to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

Zardari’s government has claimed that the battle against armed Islamic extremists is “Pakistan’s war,” but it’s been powerless to stop the U.S. attacks, which provide ammunition for those who consider it “America’s war.”