WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan agreed on Friday to continue a strong defence partnership and bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation even after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan next year.
In a joint statement issued after the 22nd meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group, the United States also recognised Pakistan’s support for “promoting reconciliation”, a reference to Islamabad’s efforts for encouraging talks between Taliban leaders and Afghan officials.
Both agreed that Pakistan-US defence partnership was vital to regional and international security and that it should continue to endure and grow in the years ahead. “Both delegations welcomed continued efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation based on mutual interests and trust. Both delegations acknowledged that bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation has been critical to weakening violent extremists and agreed that it will continue after 2014,” the statement said.
At the plenary session, the participants shared their respective assessments of the bilateral relationship and discussed strategic priorities in areas of mutual strategic interest, including counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and maritime security, agreeing to enhance partnership in these areas and broaden cooperation to other areas serving mutual interests.
The Pakistan delegation provided an update on its military campaign along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and the US delegation briefed on International Security Assistance Force activities in Afghanistan, including the 2013 transition of lead for security to the Afghan National Security Forces.
“The United States recognised Pakistan’s success in its counter-terrorism campaign this year, as well as Pakistan’s broader efforts to achieve internal security,” the statement said.
Both sides reviewed the challenges to regional security, emphasising the importance of regional peace and stability, especially after the US drawdown in Afghanistan.
Recognising the mutual desirability of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, the US delegation appreciated Pakistan’s support for promoting reconciliation and “reaffirmed the US commitment to continued engagement in the region,” the statement said.
The delegations underscored the critical significance of cross-border cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to achieve shared objectives.
Both delegations expressed satisfaction on the Lines of Communication and the US delegation noted Pakistan’s positive efforts to counter threats from improvised explosive devices. To bolster this cooperation both sides agreed to continue working together to build counter-IED capacity.
The delegation reaffirmed that the DCG remained an invaluable forum to discuss strategic defence policy issues and exchange views on shared security concerns, and “committed to continue working together to implement a framework for defence cooperation based on areas of convergence between US and Pakistani interests”.
James N. Miller, Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, led the US delegation at the DCG meeting while retired Lt-Gen Asif Yasin Malik, Pakistan’s Secretary of Defence, led the Pakistani side.
The DCG is the primary forum for exchanging views and coordinating defence policy with the goal of strengthening defence cooperation to support each country’s security interests. It last met in December 2012 in Rawalpindi.