Kayani, Mullen to meet in Spain for discussions

Kayani and Mullen are expected to have detailed discussions on Afghanistan, especially the reconciliation with the Taliban.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani and top US military commander Mike Mullen will
meet in Spain for "substantial" talks on the sidelines of a
NATO conference this week in a bid to normalise defence ties
following months of tension after the American raid that
killed Osama bin Laden.

Kayani yesterday left for Spain to attend the NATO Chiefs
of Defence annual conference to be held be in Seville during
September 16-17.

Capt John Kirby, spokesman for the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, confirmed that the two military leaders "would be
having a conversation in Spain."

The meeting between Gen Kayani and Admiral Mullen, the US
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman who is retiring later this
month, will involve "substantial discussions," Kirby was
quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

The two are expected to discuss a wide range of issues,
particularly those that soured ties in the aftermath of the
May 2 raid that killed bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison
city of Abbottabad.

The highlight of the meeting would be the formalisation
of an accord on the return of US military trainers, who were
expelled from Pakistan as a reaction to the raid, the daily
quoted its sources as saying.

"We would tell them how many trainers we require and in
which areas," a senior Pakistani official said in a clear
indication that the military had reviewed its hard line
position on the issue.

The Pakistan Army`s decision to send back the American
trainers sent the relationship into a free fall.
The US subsequently suspended 800 million dollars in
military aid for Pakistan.

The number of trainers was initially cut from 130 to 39
and subsequently to four.

At one stage, the relationship soured so much that the
strength of the media section of the US Office of Defence
Representative in Pakistan was slashed, the report said.

Over the past few weeks, the relationship improved, as
reflected by statements issued by both sides after the arrest
in Quetta of senior al Qaeda operative Sheikh Younis Al
Mauritani, a close confidant of bin Laden and the central
character of last year`s "Europe plot."

Kayani`s meeting with Mullen, who skipped Pakistan during
his farewell visit to the region, is an indicator that things
are improving, the report said.

An unnamed military officer, who is briefed on
developments in ties with the US military, said "the
relationship was in much better shape now" because of
communication between the two sides.

Kayani and Mullen are also expected to have detailed
discussions on Afghanistan, especially the reconciliation with
the Taliban and upcoming Istanbul and Bonn conferences.

Both Pakistan and the US agree on having a negotiated
settlement in Afghanistan but differ on the methods for
achieving this and the militant groups to be engaged in the
political process.

The NATO Chiefs of Defence meet will discuss progress in
the transition in Afghanistan and NATO involvement in the
country after the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.

Kayani will brief his counterparts on Pakistan`s
perspective of how the strategic partnership and cooperation
between NATO-led International Security Assistance Force,
Afghan forces and the Pakistan Army is progressing from a
political and military-strategic viewpoint.


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