Pakistan spells out ‘concerns’ to US general | Pakistan Today

Pakistan spells out ‘concerns’ to US general

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan spelt out “concerns” dogging its troubled alliance with the United States at talks Thursday with the most senior American to visit since the release of a CIA contractor wanted for murder.
US commander of the Middle East and Afghanistan, General James Mattis, flew in as relations took a further knock with a White House report criticising Pakistan’s fight against Islamist militants on the Afghan border.
Mattis was meeting Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, said General Khalid Shamim Wynne, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Shavers at the US embassy.
During the meetings, Mattis intended “to hear from them their concerns with regard to the relationship with the US military here,” Shavers said.
“He’s going to be in listening mode… that’s the main reason why he’s here,” he said. Mattis aims to visit Pakistan every three months and last visited in November, Shavers added.
The United States has made Pakistan a front line ally in the nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda, which US officials believe has carved out a global headquarters in Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan.
Under heavy US pressure, Pakistan has stepped up military operations against homegrown Taliban over the last two years, but US officials say more needs to be done to neutralise the threat posed by Islamist networks on its soil.
Pakistan argues that its troops are already dangerously overstretched. With an estimated 147,000 forces in the northwest — more than the number of Americans fighting in Afghanistan — the army has also endured heavy losses.
Aside from military operations, more than 4,200 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.
But a US report this week criticised the Pakistani military for failing to forge a clear and sustained path to beat Islamist insurgents.
On the same day as the Mattis-Kayani talks, a suicide bomber killed a Pakistani police constable and wounded five other people, including two children, in Quetta.
The semi-annual White House report to Congress, released Tuesday, noted a deterioration of the situation in the northwestern tribal belt and said operations were not complemented by plans to “hold” and “build” the areas.
“As such there remains no clear path to defeating the insurgency in Pakistan, despite the unprecedented and sustained deployment of over 147,000 forces,” the report said.
Pakistani military officials were not immediately reachable for comment.
Mattis is the most senior US official to visit Islamabad since Pakistan released a CIA contractor who shot dead two men in Lahore in January.
The killings and Pakistan’s subsequent seven-week detention of Raymond Davis sparked a major diplomatic crisis in the fragile relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
A Pakistani court eventually freed Davis following the payment of $2 million in blood money to the families of the dead men.
Pakistani-US tensions are also high over an ongoing covert US drone campaign in the border region, which fosters deep anti-Americanism within Pakistan.
A missile strike on March 17 that killed 39 people, civilians among them, led to rare public condemnation by Kayani of the unmanned drone campaign, which continues with the tacit consent of Islamabad.

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