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Pakistani military delegation returns after US talks

WASHINGTON: A Paki­stani military delegation returned home this weekend after a weeklong visit to the United States for bilateral defence consultations.

During the delegation’s stay in Washington, a senior US general told a congressional panel that Pakistan was a critical US ally in the South Asian region and urged the Trump administration to retain a close relationship with the country.

During the same period, the new US Defence Secr­etary James Mattis approved the reimbursement of $550 million to Pakistan for its efforts to fight terrorism along the Pak-Afghan border.

Also, a recent report by the US State Department’s Office of Inspector General acknowledged the military’s strong role in the country’s national security and foreign affairs while outlining US objectives in Pakistan.

The report noted that US-Pakistan relationship enco­mpassed issues of critical importance to US nati­onal security, such as counterterrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, peace in Afgha­nistan, and domestic and South Asian regional economic growth and development.

“Mission Pakistan’s highest policy priorities are to promote regional stability, combat terrorism, and support a secure, economically vibrant, and stable Pakistani democracy,” the report added.

The inspector general noted that “the Pakistani military continues to play a strong role in national security and foreign affairs. The country faces external and internal challenges to its stability from crime and terrorism”.

The 20-page report noted that three unrelated events in 2011, an incident in La­hore involving an Ame­rican citizen, the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid in Abbo­ttabad, and the Salala border clash, were perceived as challenges to Pakistani sovereignty and a setback for US-Pakistan cooperation.

Since then, the two governments have taken steps to improve relations, culminating in Secretary John Kerry’s 2015 visit to Islam­abad to co-chair the Strategic Dialogue and the Pakistani prime minister’s visit to the US the same year.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2017

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