WASHINGTON; The United States sees Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif as a valued and respected partner in the war against terrorism and wishes him well in his future pursuits, a US official said on Tuesday.
Diplomatic sources say that an announcement about the appointment of the new army chief is expected on Saturday.
Asked to comment on media reports that the general was stepping down as the army chief, a US State Department spokesperson said that any transition in the Pakistan Army was an internal matter of the country and it was only appropriate that any statement regarding this change should come from its government.
“We have seen the reports about the chief of army staff transition. This is an internal Pakistani matter, and I would direct you to the government of Pakistan for any further information,” the spokesperson said.
The department also shared with Dawn a statement issued by the US embassy in Islamabad, saying: “We have seen the statements from ISPR announcing that Gen Raheel Sharif is stepping down as Chief of Army Staff at the end of his three-year term.”
The statement noted that Gen Sharif was “a valued and respected partner in the regional fight against terrorism throughout his years as army chief”. “We congratulate him and his family and wish them well,” it added.
Gen Raheel held two meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visits to Washington in 2014 and 2015.
In the first meeting, Secretary Kerry acknowledged Pakistan’s role in fighting terrorism and the sacrifices rendered by the country. He also praised the professionalism of the army and termed the institution a ‘truly binding force’.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dan Feldman, who also attended the meeting, praised Gen Sharif’s commitment to the fight.
“People in Washington were very pleased with his commitment” to fighting all terrorists, including the Haqqani network, he said, referring to the Afghan militant group.
Secretary Kerry expressed similar sentiments after the second meeting as well, and recognised “the contributions and the enormous sacrifices made by Pakistan in its fight against terrorism”.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2016