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U.S. and Pakistani generals meet for first time since fatal airstrikes

From Nasir Habib, for CNN
March 28, 2012 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "The U.S. is making fun of Pakistan by killing its people," a Pakistani lawmaker says
  • Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been strained by recent events
  • Senior military officials held their first meeting since the airstrikes
  • The talks come a day after President Obama met with the Pakistani prime minister

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Top U.S. and Pakistani military officials held face-to-face meetings in Islamabad on Wednesday in the first high-level talks since NATO airstrikes killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in November.

Gen. James Mattis and Gen. John Allen discussed "bilateral matters, professional interests and the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region" with Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, the chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, according to a statement from the Pakistani military.

Mattis is the chief of the U.S. Central Command, while Allen commands the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The meeting lasted "for some time," the Pakistani statement said.

The American commanders also met with Gen. Asfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief of staff, to discuss the investigation into the November 26 airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Pakistani-Afghan border, the military said.

U.S. and Pakistani officials have disagreed about the causes and circumstances of the episode, and the attack put a severe strain on ties between Washington and Islamabad. The generals' meeting Wednesday addressed the issue of coordinating the different forces near the Pakistani-Afghan border, which was highlighted as one of the factors contributing to the killing of the soldiers.

In South Korea on Tuesday, President Barack Obama met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for the first time since the soldiers' deaths. Obama expressed hope that the United States and Pakistan could arrive at a "balanced approach" to relations in the aftermath of the airstrikes.

An investigation into the lethal NATO airstrikes in November by Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, on behalf of the United States, concluded that Pakistan provoked NATO forces and that distrust between the two parties led to the firefight.

Pakistan disputed the findings, saying Clark's report was factually incorrect. Relations between military officials from the two countries are tense, with the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers adding to anger over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan last May.

Following the fatal airstrikes, the Pakistani government shut down the two NATO supply routes in the country, asked the United States to vacate an air base on its territory and boycotted a conference about the future of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistani lawmakers are expected this week to start debating a committee's recommendation that the United States stop drone strikes inside its territory and apologize unconditionally for the November airstrikes. Maulvi Asmatullah, an independent member of parliament, said Wednesday that "The U.S. is making fun of Pakistan by killing its people."

And Zafar Baig, another independent but a supporter of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's ruling coalition, said the United States is not "our uncle." He said Pakistan's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, "sold our dignity and honor by getting dollars. Now we have to get it back."

"Our Afghan brothers have been giving sacrifices for us for a long time," Baig said. "We should support them rather than the oppressor U.S."

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