Islamabad: Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif will visit the US on his own as there was no official invitation either from his American counterpart or the Pentagon, according to defence officials.
“Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif will be visiting Washington from November 16 to 19. Sharif is travelling to Washington of his own volition and Department of Defence officials are meeting with General Raheel at his request,” a Defence Department official told PTI on Tuesday.
Pentagon has received requests for a meeting from Pakistani Embassy on behalf of General Sharif, the official said on the condition of anonymity.
This is one of the rarest of the rare occasions that a Pakistani Army Chief is visiting the US without any invitation. Defence department official said that there is “no official invitation” for General Sharif to visit the US.
“General Sharif requested meetings in Washington and the DoD looks forward to productive discussions related to our bilateral defence relationship. We are working with the Pakistan Embassy here in Washington to develop an appropriate set of meetings with US officials,” the official said.
According to officials, Sharif has requested for meetings with Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US Army Chief General Mark A Milley. He is also expected to fly down to the Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
“As you might expect, we will discuss a range of defence and security issues important to both countries such as the security of Afghanistan and the region given the President’s recent troop announcement as well as Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts,” the Pentagon official said in response to a question.
It is learnt that Sharif on his second visit to the US as the top Pakistani commander has also requested for a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and several powerful lawmakers.
Sharif had met Kerry during his visit to the US last year in the first week of December. Sharif, to the surprise of many, had stayed in the US for an unusually longer period of time, which was initially scheduled for about a week in the second half of November 2014.