WASHINGTON, May 24: “Pakistan isn’t going anywhere. Pakistan is always going to be a 1,500-mile border along Afghanistan,” says the commander of Nato and US forces in Afghanistan while explaining the need to stay engaged with Islamabad.
Also, a White House official said the United States helped arrange a trilateral meeting of US, Pakistani and Afghan presidents on the margins a Nato summit in Chicago this weekend ‘to jump-start’ a reconciliation process.
“And we hope to continue to talk to the Pakistanis about that going forward,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
In a bilateral meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, President Barack Obama also “reaffirmed a commitment to work to reset the US-Pakistan relationship,” he added
Commander International Security Assistance Force Gen John R. Allen and Mr Rhodes were briefing reporters in Washington on efforts to reduce tensions between the United States and Pakistan.
The White House official rejected claims that President Barack had refused to have an exclusive meeting with President Zardari during the Chicago summit.
“President Obama didn’t host any formal bilateral meetings except for the one with President Karzai” and that too because the summit was called to decide a future course of action for Afghanistan, he said.
Even on the margins of the summit, President Obama met only a handful of leaders and President Zardari was one of them, Mr Rhodes explained.
Gen Allen focused on military-to-military talks between the US and Pakistan, which recently resumed after a lapse.
“Pakistan is not going anywhere. Afghanistan is not going anywhere. And the region will best be served in terms of long-term stability and security if we can build the kind of trust necessary between all the parties in that region,” said the general while underlining the need to stay engaged with Pakistan.
Gen Allen acknowledged that the issue of reopening Pakistani ground supply routes to Nato was still unresolved.
“I have recently led a team to Islamabad to renew our conversation with the Pakistani military,” Gen Allen said, noting the participants had “a very positive conversation about taking steps and measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of the events of 25 and 26 November.”
He noted that Pakistan faced many challenges along the border with Afghanistan and they had taken more casualties in the last two years than the US had in 10 years of combat in Afghanistan.
“Where we can find intersection of our interests, we should leverage those,” the general said. “And I think we’re to the point where that conversation can occur.”
Mr Rhodes pointed out that the US encouraged a brief trilateral discussion among US, Pakistani and Afghan leaders during the Nato summit because “we support a political transition in Afghanistan and an Afghan-led reconciliation process, it’s very important for Pakistan to be part of that discussion.”