WASHINGTON: A top US general has said that he has started to see “positive indicators” from the Pakistan military, weeks after President Donald Trump ordered the suspension of US military aid to Islamabad. Relations between Pakistan and the US have been tense since Trump lashed out at Islamabad last August, upbraiding it for sheltering “agents of chaos.”
In January, he ordered the suspension of US military aid to Pakistan, saying it was not doing enough to target the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent group. “We are now beginning to see positive indicators,” General Joe Votel, who heads the US military’s Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee.
“Through their communications, they’re reporting to us some of the actions that they are taking on the ground. … It does not yet equal the decisive action that we would like to see them take, in terms of a strategic shift, but they are positive indicators, and it gives me hope that our approach is the right one.”
US officials believe Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, but also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan, whose government is backed by the US. Islamabad denies those allegations.
Votel said cooperation with Pakistan is key to attaining success in the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, where thousands of extra US troops are due to begin training Afghan counterparts this spring. The Centcom commander said he speaks routinely with his Pakistan counterpart.
“I can’t characterize the relationship as trustful at this particular point. There is a lot of history here that has to be overcome,” he said. Votel said 64 percent of the Afghan population is controlled by the Afghan government, 12 percent by the Taliban, with the rest living in “contested areas.”
US delegation Deputy Assistant to the President and US National Security Council Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis has conveyed Washington’s desire to “move toward a new relationship with Pakistan.” Curtis concluded her two-day visit to Islamabad on Tuesday. Leading a delegation accompanied by US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, she met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, and Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar, according to a US Embassy statement. Curtis, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official, is credited with making a significant contribution to US President Donald Trump’s Afghan and South Asia policy, which was unveiled in August.
Curtis acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and said America was looking to forge a new relationship “based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan.”