Pak Army Chief to visit US next month for security talks

Pakistan's Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif will visit the US next month for crucial security talks with American defence officials, his first such trip since taking over as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) last year.

Islamabad: Pakistan's Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif will visit the US next month for crucial security talks with American defence officials, his first such trip since taking over as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) last year.

His week-long visit is likely to start from mid-November and preparations for trip are underway, defence sources said.

Gen Sharif has been invited by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey. He is expected to meet Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Cenycom Commander General Lloyd Austin and also visit Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

Gen Sharif assumed the post of army chief in November and it took him almost a year to decide on a trip to the US, a move which speaks about the tensions between the defence establishments of the two countries over an array of issues.

However, the visit indicates that the two sides are ready to look forward and ready to work in post-2014 Afghanistan where a sizeable number of US and NATO troops will stay.
Pakistan had asked US not to completely abandon the war-torn Afghanistan which needs both security and economic support for its survival.

Sharif goes to the US armed with the success of military operation in North Waziristan which is predecessor Gen Ashfaq Kayani refused to launch despite American pressure.

The new Pakistan army chief is apparently more clear in his approach towards the militants and has said several times that the operation will continue till militants are wiped out.

That is why a smaller operation was also launched in Khyber which is crucial for the security of Afghanistan as a key supply route to the country passes through Khyber.

The issues of tension with India will also come up for discussions during the trip as sources said that the US is worried over the recent deadly clashes at borders.

The visit also shows that US is again ready to engage with Pakistan military which has emerged stronger in the current power struggle in the country. 

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