Pakistan reaffirms support for US, Afghan forces

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army on Friday reaffirms its commitment to cooperating with the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces for peace in the region.

This resolve was expressed by Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa during a meeting with a visiting United States military delegation led by Gen Joseph Votel, Commander of the Central Command (Centcom).

The COAS was assisted by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and some other generals.

According to an Inter-Services Public Relations statement issued after the meeting, the army chief “reiterated his commitment to work in close coordination with Afghan security forces and US-led Resolute Support Mission [RSM] for improved security environment in Pakistan-Afghanistan border region”.

The meeting at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi took place on the day when US President Donald Trump was meeting his senior aides at the Camp David presidential resort to finalise his strategy for Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that the Trump administration had almost reached a decision on a new approach for fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. He gave no hint of what the strategy would look like, but told reporters that the Camp David talks “will move this [review process] toward a decision” after months of heated debates.

The Trump administration has said its Afghanistan strategy will be informed by a review of its approach to the broader region, including Pakistan and India. There is a perception in the US that not enough had been done to uproot the Afghan Haqqani network and Taliban sanctuaries from Pakistani soil because of which the militants were sustaining the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Gen Bajwa dispelled the impression and noted that “Pakistan has undertaken operations against terrorists of all hue and colour”.

He emphasised that no other country had greater interest in peace in Afghanistan than Pakistan.

Gen Bajwa recalled that Pakistan attached a lot of importance to its relations with the US, particularly their security cooperation aspect.

Notwithstanding the misgivings, Pakistan has always emphasised the strength and resilience of ties with the US.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria had said in his weekly media briefing a day earlier that relations with the US were “longstanding, multidimensional and diverse”.

The army chief said Pakistan only expected the US to be more respectful towards and acknowledge its sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

“More than financial or material assistance, we seek acknowledgement of our decades-long contributions towards regional peace and stability, understanding of our challenges and most importantly the sacrifices Pakistani nation and its security forces have rendered in fight against terrorism and militancy,” he maintained.

Tillerson’s assurance Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured the people of Afghanistan in his message on the Afghan Independence Day that the United States would continue to work for a safe and prosperous future for the war-torn country.

“The Afghan spirit of resilience and courage in the face of adversity continues to guide the people of Afghanistan toward a better future,” he said.

“Afghanistan has made significant economic, political and social progress in the last 16 years, and we bear witness every day to the Afghan people’s dedication to building a more democratic and peaceful country,” he said.

Secretary Tillerson said that America’s strong friendship with Afghanistan was based on their mutual dedication to “helping the Afghan people secure a safe and prosperous future”.