Washington: The US-Pakistan relationship is not "deteriorating", even as crucial ground lines of communication to Afghanistan continue to be closed by Islamabad for more than six months, a top US commander said on Wednesday.
"I don't see, necessarily, that it is a deterioration. I think the fact that we are talking about reopening the ground line of communications is a very positive step in that regard," General John Allen, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters during a Pentagon news conference.
"Now, it is a negotiation and negotiations take time, so I can't predict what the outcome will be and how soon that will be. But I have recently led a team to Islamabad to renew our conversation with the Pakistani military in the context of the Tripartite Commission; the first time in a year. It was a very positive conversation about taking steps and measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the events of 25 and 26 November," he said responding to a question.
"I think it's important to understand that Pakistan has many of its own challenges on the eastern side of that international frontier," he said, adding Pakistan is engaged in a significant counterinsurgency campaign.
"And it's been engaged in that for some period of time. The effects of many of their operations have been helpful to us on the other side of the border. We hadn't had a conversation with them in almost a year on that level," he said.
"So with the reopening of the conversation about the ground line of communications, with the, I think, positive outcomes of the conversations that we had over two days in Islamabad, I don't see that there is a decrease in the relationship or a decline, necessarily, in the relationship," he said.
"I think we're actually poised to improve where we were, frankly, and I look forward to continuing a constructive series of engagements with General Kayani and the Pakistani military over time," he noted.
"We committed ourselves to recurring meetings, to ensure that we're properly organised to take maximum advantage of both the time on the ground, the passage of time from the year ago when we last met, with the idea of creating a constructive long-term relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan in that regard," Allen said.
General Allen said Pakistan and the region are extraordinarily important to America's policy outcomes in the region.
"I think we need to be careful about overstating the progress that we're making, but I think that we've made real progress in the last several weeks with respect to having conversations with Pakistan we were not even having before. We should build on those. We should seek opportunities for common ground," he said.
"We had a very important conversation with the Pakistanis about seeking both strategic congruence in what our long-term outcomes would be for both Afghanistan and Pakistan in terms of the insurgency and the destabilising influences in the region.”
“We talked about an operational relationship that could leverage our respective militaries on each side of the border. And we talked about the sorts of tactical measures that we could take to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Salala on the 25th and 26th of November last year," he said, adding that all of that is positive, from his perspective.
However, Allen said this doesn't mean that the whole relationship is back on track.
"But if some aspect of the relationship is tracking positively, I think it can have a knock-off effect in other areas, as well," he said.
Besides, Allen said the closure of the ground lines of communication, which once was considered to be the life line for US forces in Afghanistan, has had no impact on the US operations inside that war-torn country.
In fact, the stock level of US forces in Afghanistan is now much higher than it was before its closure last November, the commander said.
"The closure of the ground line of communication has had no impact on my campaign. In fact, in the many different measures of stockage levels, if you will, of some of the key supplies that we measure -- fuels and food and ammunition, et cetera -- my stockage levels are higher today than they were on the 25th of November," Allen said.
"It's an example, I think, of the great strategic logistics capabilities of the United States and our allies that we were able to both sustain the campaign without the ground line of communication, and to sustain the future with respect to our military operations," he said, adding GLOCs closure would have no impact on their spring campaign against the Taliban.
"One of the great resources of the United States is the United States Air Force. And the air line of communications and the northern distribution network provided tremendous compensation for what was lost over the ground line of communication," he said.
"And so the closest we came, and I won't get really specific, was in simple gasoline. And we never came closer than busting the 30-day supply. But all of them are higher today than they were -- I think gasoline might still be a bit lower.
But we are in no strategic need right now and it's because of the ground line of communication out of the northern distribution network and the terrific work by the air bridge that was sustained by the US Air Force and the Transportation Command. And that has given me tremendous operational flexibility," Allen said.
However, he conceded that this is more expensive.
"Coming out of the northern distribution network, it's about twice as expensive," the top American commander said.
First Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 11:12