Army chief asks US to desist from unilateral actions

May 26, 2016

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RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif exchanges views with US Ambassador David Hale during a meeting at the General Headquarters here on Wednesday.—PPI
RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif exchanges views with US Ambassador David Hale during a meeting at the General Headquarters here on Wednesday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif asked the United States on Wednesday to desist from taking unilateral actions that undermine trust and affect counterterrorism cooperation.

“Such acts of sovereignty violations are detrimental to relations between both countries and are counterproductive for ongoing peace process for regional stability,” the army chief told US Ambassador David Hale while conveying his concern over the drone attack in Balochistan in which Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed.

According to a source, the military leadership was outraged at the unilateral strike.

The meeting, which took place on the request of the American embassy, was described by another source as “short and cold, but cordial”.

ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar was also present on the occasion.

Mr Hale has been in regular contact with the Foreign Office and the national security adviser since the Saturday drone attack and was also summoned to the FO to receive a protest.

Pakistan would decide its course of action at a meeting of the National Security Council which would be convened after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns from his private visit abroad.

Both sides at the GHQ meeting, the source said, explained their stances while sticking to their respective positions.

The army chief was said to be in a “complaining mode” and told the envoy that if the US considered Pakistan an ally then such decisions should be taken mutually.

Gen Sharif reminded the ambassador that the fight against terrorism was a common war.

He expressed concerns about the impact of the elimination of the Taliban chief on the Afghan peace process. He believed that the progress made so far had been lost.

About new Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada, the army chief remarked that he was an unknown entity and his position on peace talks was not clear.

A military observer, while commenting on the anger in the military on the drone attack, said it was more about the unilateral nature of the operation than the target. Pakistanis, he believed, understood the operational realities. Hence, he was of the opinion, the incident would not have any major effect on the bilateral military cooperation.

It should be recalled that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, while conveying the protest to the US envoy, had also underscored that cooperation in the fight against terrorism should continue.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2016