U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L), and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speak to the media during a briefing at the Pentagon, on August 14, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. Secretary Panetta spoke on various topics including in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.   Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L), and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speak to the media during a briefing at the Pentagon, on August 14, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. — Photo by AFP

WASHINGTON: The Pakistani army chief sounded “the right themes” in his Independence Day speech, says the US military chief as the US defence secretary acknowledged that militants in Afghanistan were conducting cross-border attacks into Pakistan.

In a similar conciliatory note, the US State Department dismissed as ‘hypotheticals’, media reports claiming that Pakistani troops might enter Afghanistan while pursuing Taliban militants.

The statements – at news briefings in Washington – follow Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta’s AP interview on Monday, saying that Pakistan was all set to launch a military operation in North Waziristan.

And on Wednesday, reports in the US media claimed that Pakistan might launch this operation sometime next month.

At a Pentagon briefing, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin E. Dempsey highlighted Gen Kayani’s Independence Day speech in Kakul as very significant.

“I’d encourage you to take a look at (this speech),” said the US military chief, “because it sounds the right themes in seeing his understanding of the challenge”.

In his speech Gen Kayani acknowledged that all state institutions in Pakistan, including the army, had made mistakes, recognised militancy as the main threat to the country and sought public support for dealing with the threat.

At the same briefing, Secretary Panetta pointed out that relations between the two countries had improved rapidly since the reopening of Nato supply lines to Afghanistan.

He also acknowledged one of Pakistan’s major complaints that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were using bases in Afghanistan to attack Pakistani military posts and other targets inside Fata.

“There's no question that there are terrorists that are coming across from Pakistan who wind up in Afghanistan and then cause some cross-border incidents across the way,” he told an Afghan journalist who wanted the US to persuade Pakistan to stop shelling suspected militant hideouts.

In a pre-briefing statement, Secretary Panetta noted that Pakistan had “now taken a more positive, visible step to advance our shared objective of a secure and peaceful Afghanistan”.

Pakistan’s decision to open up the Nato supply lines, “means a great deal to us in terms of our ability to transit containers and materiel that are now moving across the border into Afghanistan”, he added.

Secretary Panetta also noted that cross-border cooperation with Pakistan was increasing and the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, was meeting Gen Kayani on a regular basis.

“And it’s helping us try to confront the challenge of these insurgent sanctuaries, which exist on both sides of the border,” he said.

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