WASHINGTON: The United States still has three key interests in Pakistan, averting Al Qaeda’s re-emergence, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promoting regional stability, says the next chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Marine Corps Gen Joseph F. Dunford Jr, who currently heads the US Marine Corps, told his confirmation hearing that Pakistan’s cooperation was also important for ensuring a “peaceful outcome in Afghanistan.”
During the three-hour long hearing at the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday afternoon, the lawmakers showed a keen interest in the future of US-Pakistan relations.
If confirmed by the Senate, Gen Dunford would succeed Army Gen Martin E. Dempsey on Oct 1.
He said that the US-led coalition and the Afghan government were closely watching the ISIS’s attempt to expand its reach to Afghanistan and Pakistan and were collaborating closely to prevent this threat from expanding.
Key issues discussed in the hearing:
Pakistan’s role in the reconciliation process:
Gen Dunford: Regional partners have an important role to play in ensuring a stable, democratic Afghanistan. “We have encouraged stronger ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan and have been pleased with their recent bilateral efforts to address their security concerns.”
Areas of divergent interest with Pakistan include “our views on the use of proxies and the importance of a positive and stable Pakistan-India relationship”.
The US-Pakistan relationship, according to general, was fundamental to US vital national security interests. The US will need to continue cooperation with Pakistan to defeat Al Qaeda, support Pakistan’s stability, and achieve a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“If confirmed, I would continue to evaluate the specifics of the relationship based on my assessment of our shared interests with Pakistan and its effectiveness of achieving our shared goals.
“I will continue to evaluate the efficacy of the mil-to- mil cooperation we have with Pakistan and identify ways in which we can work with Pakistan to enhance regional stability.”
On US Assistance to Pakistan:
Gen Dunford said Pakistan had been, and remained, the largest recipient of the Coalition Support Fund. It is in US interests to have an enduring partnership with Pakistan.
As US mission in Afghanistan transitions, there remains a need for our mutually beneficial relationship.
“If confirmed, I will provide military advice and recommendations regarding our support for their operations based on my assessment of Pakistan’s effectiveness and the larger strategic environment.”
Gen Dunford said the US assistance to Pakistan had enabled operations in Afghanistan and operations against Al Qaeda and helped secure its strategic interests.
“If confirmed, I will continue to work with the Pakistani military to ensure that they continue to do more.”
Gen Dunford also supports conditioning US assistance to Pakistan to the country’s continued cooperation in areas of mutual security interest.
On Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship, he said the current relationship appears to have improved since the election of President Ghani. It is clear that security in Afghanistan and Pakistan are linked. Both sides are working to ensure that concrete steps are taken to enhance their bilateral relationship and cooperation.
About counterterrorism operations, he said Pakistan had cooperated with the United States in its operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. Pakistan’s actions in North Waziristan and other areas have disrupted groups that are a threat to US personnel and objectives in Afghanistan. “We will continue to work with Pakistan to do more.”
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2015