ABC News’ Nick Schifrin and Karen Travers report:
Vice President Biden made an unannounced trip to Pakistan today to try and push government and military leaders to crack down on militants and shore up a shaky economy.
Biden delivered that message in private and in public, one week after a prominent politician was assassinated and crowds across the country celebrated his killer.
“Societies that tolerate such actions wind up being consumed by those actions,” Biden said to the media in prepared remarks.
But at the same time, Biden apparently reassured Pakistan’s government that it need not worry about one of its greatest fears: the United States military poring over the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Some U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have told ABC News they are convinced they need to expand the war into Pakistan in order to defeat the Taliban. But that is a minority view, and apparently, it has been officially rejected.
In a private meeting, Biden assured Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani that there would be “no boots on the ground,” according to Pakistan’s state-run media. Biden also acknowledged that Pakistan’s fears about U.S. troops entering the country from Afghanistan were “legitimate,” according to the Associated Press of Pakistan.
U.S. officials did not immediately respond to request to confirm the state-run media report.
It’s not clear whether Biden was also referring to contingency plans if a successful terror attack on U.S. soil is traced back to Pakistan that might include U.S. special forces entering North Waziristan, as we reported on last month.
Biden arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he spent a day and a half in three different provinces, meeting with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. troops, and U.S. diplomats in a trip that was far more extensive than the one he made to Pakistan.
In Kabul, he said the United States military needed more help from Pakistan if it was going to permanently push out the Taliban.
“It’s going to require more pressure — more pressure on the Taliban, from Pakistan’s side of the border, than we’ve been — we’ve been able to exert so far,” Biden said in a statement delivered next to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Biden was in Pakistan for only about 6 hours and did not meet any Pakistanis who do not work in the government or military. He traveled by motorcade under extraordinary security from the airport to the U.S. embassy, then onto the President’s house, the prime minister’s office, and the military’s headquarters before departing.
In his last visit to Pakistan, in January 2009, Biden delivered a threat to Pakistan’s leadership to do more to crack down on terror. Some government officials feared he would do the same on this trip. One official who attended a large meeting between U.S. officials and President Asif Zardari and his staff said Biden did urge Pakistan to fight extremism – but in a much more subdued and personal style.
Biden’s first point, according to the Pakistani official, was a phone call he made earlier in the day to the widow of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, the politician assassinated last week. That led the conversation toward how best to fight extremism in all of Pakistani society, the official said — rather than discussing how to confront terrorism in a pointed, accusatory way.
Many Pakistani officials have said that Biden is, in general, a bit gruff and prone to joking around. There was little sign of that today except for the very beginning of his meeting with Zardari, whom Biden has known for years.
“We should act like we know each other,” the vice president joked to visiting reporters. “I’ve known the president long enough that I used to have hair.”
“Is he making fun of me?” Zadari asked.
Biden laughed and ran his hand over his thinning hair and asked a Pakistani official, “What are you laughing at?”