Pak Army does not seek to endanger civilian govt: US General

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 21:03

Islamabad: The Pakistan Army does not
have any desire to endanger the country’s civilian government
or to destabilise President Asif Ali Zardari, a top American
general has said.

Gen David Petraeus, the head of the US Central
Command, said his discussions with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had reinforced
his view that Pakistan’s civilian government did not face any
"I have seen no indication that Gen Kayani is
entertaining such a notion (to destabilise the government or
Zardari)," he said.

"Whenever we have talked to them, they say they are
committed to the democratically elected civilian government.
Whenever any such topic is touched upon they say they are
supportive of the government," Petraeus told a small group
of Pakistani journalists yesterday.

Petraeus, who visited Islamabad to take Pakistan’s
civilian and military leadership into confidence about the US
plans to deploy additional troops in Afghanistan, said he had
not seen any indication of the army taking over during his
meeting with Kayani.

Asked whether he thought Kayani would confide in him
if he was about to remove Zardari, Petraeus laughed and
replied: "Well, I did not ask Kayani".

The top American general said he was confident the
army had no plans to dislodge the civilian government because
the US has "sufficient contacts (with Kayani) and Admiral Mike
Mullen and I have developed a close and candid relationship
(with him)".
Petraeus, who was the first senior US official to
visit Pakistan after the US unveiled its new Afghan strategy,
also met Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed
Shuja Pasha.

In addition to military cooperation against the
Taliban and al-Qaeda, the US is sharing with Pakistan details
of the operational plan in Afghanistan because it will have
implications on either side of the border, he said.

"One of the most important developments over the past
year has been the impressive determination of Pakistan’s
efforts against extremists...Operations in Bajaur, Mohmand,
Khyber, Swat, Buner, lower Dir and now in South Waziristan
have significantly degraded the Taliban," he said.

He declined to comment on speculation that the US has
plans to expand drone attacks from the tribal areas to
Balochistan province. He said the Chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen and US commander in
Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal too will visit Pakistan soon.

Pakistan has been seeking details of the new US
strategy on Afghanistan since its announcement two weeks ago.
Officials said the deployment of additional troops in
Afghanistan is a major concern for Pakistan since it might
give rise to cross-border infiltration.

"We want to coordinate actions on the Afghan side with
Pakistan so they know what to expect. We have to do some more
inside Afghanistan to help Pakistan sustain the gains they
have made," Petraeus said.

A civilian surge is also necessary and development of
areas cleared of militants by the army in Pakistan had come up
during his meeting with Gilani, he said.

Petraeus said he understood that the Pakistani
military could not open up too many fronts.


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First Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 21:03

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