In a blunt message to Pakistan, a top US general has told the country’s military leadership that Islamabad must prevent militants from operating within its soil and across its borders to bring in security and stability in the region.
US Central Command (Centcom) Commander General Joseph Votel, who was here on a two-day visit, also emphasised the importance of improved Pak-Afghan relations, and the need for strengthened border security, including measures to coordinate military operations along both sides of the border, according to a statement from the US Embassy.
During his visit, Votel met senior Pakistani military commanders including Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Hayat and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.
The US Centcom Commander’s visit, his fourth to Islamabad, is believed to be a preparatory visit for the upcoming trip of US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who is likely to visit to Pakistan next month.
Pakistan and the US have had a series of meetings to bridge their differences since President Donald Trump’s Fort Myer speech on the new US policy for South Asia and Afghanistan in which he criticised Pakistan for showing insincerity in the fight against terrorism despite getting billions of dollars in assistance from America.
Trump’s harsh language had aggravated the already strained bilateral relations. Votel stressed the Donald Trump Administration’s message that Pakistan must prevent all militants from operating within and across its borders, the Embassy statement said here.
“Votel underscored the vital role Pakistan can play in facilitating a peace process in Afghanistan and in bringing stability and security to the region,” it said. It was essentially the reiteration of the demand for action against the alleged “safe havens”, Dawn reported today.
During his meeting, Gen Bajwa told Gen Votel that Pakistan’s committed efforts for peace in Afghanistan were not being reciprocated. He pointed towards the latest cross-border attack on a Pakistani post in Bajaur in which two soldiers were killed.
Following the attack, the military had called for “more efforts” by all stakeholders in Afghanistan, both the NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and the Afghan security forces, for elimination of terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan and effective border security.
Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal, speaking at the weekly media briefing, said yesterday that efforts were continuing “to bridge the gap between the perceptions of the two countries in the wake of President Trump’s South Asia and Afghanistan policy, and to arrive at a consensus on moving forward and exploring avenues of cooperation between both sides”.
Noting that Pakistan was “actively engaged” in dialogue with the US at all levels, he said, “he believes that dialogue is the best way forweard to enhance cooperation between the two sides.”