Gen Sharif’s Washington mission


What was the point?


Gen Raheel Sharif met top US military, security and civilian leaders in Washington. He was perhaps the only foreign army chief in recent times to have held meetings at the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. He was invited to the Hill to address two Senate Committees of Intelligence and Armed Services. He was welcomed because of Pakistan’s importance in the war against the terrorists and the assistance it can provide in a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. Also because of Gen Sharif’s role in the conduct of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb which is widely appreciated at home and abroad.

One is still not sure however if the visit has produced any concrete results. The Prime Minister drew flak from certain circles for not making proper use of the dossiers provided to him exposing Indian support for terrorism in Pakistan as well as for not getting civil nuclear technology for Pakistan. The tweets by the ISPR chief are silent on whether the two issues were taken up during the visit.

The usual demands to do more were again made during the talks between Gen Sharif and Defence Secretary Carter. Pentagon Press Secretary told the media that Secretary Carter told the general that Washington ‘feels strongly about the need to go after groups like Haqqani Network that threaten the US and its forces operating in Afghanistan’. What is more, the COAS was told about the need to address the issue of “other groups that posed a threat not only to Afghanistan, but to Pakistan itself”.

In his press conference, the ISPR chief reiterated that terrorism would be combated in Pakistan with all stakeholders on board. This would remove the confusion created by some regarding strong differences between the army and the elected government. Even if the visit did not make any outstanding achievement, it must have made the general more realistic about what can be achieved with the type of external and internal policies the country is pursuing.


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