Pak’s Kayani discusses security with US commanders

The US is keen on re-engaging Pakistan to work on the endgame in war-torn Afghanistan.

Islamabad: Two top US military commanders discussed "militant network activities" and steps to improve cross-border security cooperation during their meetings with Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other senior officials, American authorities said on Thursday.

Gen James Mattis, head of the US Army`s Central Command, and Gen John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, had met Kayani and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne in the garrison city of Rawalpindi yesterday.

Mattis and Allen discussed "a wide range of common security issues, (including) militant network activities and improving cross-border cooperation" during their interactions with the Pakistan military officials, said a statement from the US embassy here.

The US has for long been asking Pakistan to crack down on al Qaeda and Taliban elements who shelter in the North Waziristan tribal region and carry out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has so far refused to launch a military offensive in the region.

This was the first high-level military contact between Pakistan and the US since a cross-border NATO air strike in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

The military officials met a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani held talks with US President Barack Obama on the margins of a nuclear security summit in Seoul.

During his talks with Gilani, Obama called for a balanced approach to bilateral ties that would respect Pakistan`s sovereignty while addressing the national security concerns of the US. Mattis, who left Pakistan this morning, acknowledged sacrifices made by Pakistani military in the fight against extremists and offered his condolences for personnel who had fallen in support of that cause, the embassy statement said.

Noting that this was the first visit by senior US military officials to Pakistan since last winter, it said Mattis and Allen were "grateful for the time afforded them by their Pakistani counterparts and reaffirmed the importance of the US-Pakistani security relationship - not only to ongoing operations in Afghanistan but also to regional stability".

During their meeting with the chairman of the Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Mattis and Allen discussed bilateral matters, professional interests and the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region, a Pakistani military statement said.

The meeting between the military officials could be a significant step toward rebuilding Pakistan-US relations, which were virtually snapped following the NATO attack.

The US is keen on re-engaging Pakistan to work on the endgame in war-torn Afghanistan.

Following the NATO air strike, Gilani ordered a parliamentary review of Pakistan’s ties with the US. The American military said the air strike was unintentional, but the Pakistani military rejected this stand and called for action against those responsible for the raid.

Pakistan closed all routes used to transport supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan after the air strike and forced American personnel to vacate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province, believed to be a hub for CIA-operated drones.

Pakistani lawmakers are set to debate wide-ranging recommendations for revamping ties with the US during a joint sitting of Parliament but the session has been marred by protests and disruptions over political violence in the
financial hub of Karachi. The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has presented 40 recommendations for resetting Pakistan-US ties, including an apology for the air strike, an end to American drone strikes and the imposition of a tax before the reopening of NATO supply routes.

The Defa-e-Pakistan Council, a conglomerate of over 40 hardline and extremist groups, has warned it will launch nationwide protests if the supply routes are reopened.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan too has warned it will target parliamentarians if they recommend the reopening of the routes.

PTI