ISLAMABAD: The United States has assured Pakistan that no unilateral action on its territory is being planned despite the suspension of military aid and a flurry of hostile statements.
The assurance was extended to Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa during his telephonic conversation with Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel last week.
Military’s public affairs division Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday released the details of Gen Bajwa’s recent contacts with the US leaders. The army chief, it is said, was contacted by Gen Votel and an unnamed senator to defuse tensions after President Donald Trump’s New Year Day tweet accusing Pakistan of lying and being deceitful towards the US.
The calls, according to the ISPR, were for discussing “Pak-US security cooperation post President Trump tweet”.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal had a day earlier informed journalists at his weekly media briefing that Pakistan and the US were communicating “with each other on various issues of mutual interest at different levels”.
The FO spokesman’s statement had spurred speculation that the military was in secret talks with the US. The ISPR statement on the conversations that Gen Bajwa had with Gen Votel and the US senator was, therefore, aimed at quelling the rumours.
Gen Bajwa tells Centcom chief counterterrorism operations will continue without American financial support
The three key messages conveyed by the Centcom chief were that the problems in ties were temporary; there would be no unilateral action against Pakistan, and that the US did not want a disruption in ties rather it wanted cooperation from Islamabad on areas of its concern.
Possibility of a unilateral action by the US was key concern in Islamabad, especially after a Pentagon report on Afghanistan last month mentioned “unilateral steps in areas of divergence”.
The statement importantly contained an admission by Gen Votel that Pakistan had already taken action against some of the groups that were of concern to the US and it was satisfied with that action. Gen Votel “acknowledged the effectiveness of some of the recent actions taken by Pakistan to ensure that Pakistan’s hospitality to Afghan refugees is not misused in anyway”, it noted.
According to Reuters, the US Centcom did not comment on the content of the conversation between Gen Votel and Gen Bajwa. But it said the US military was in “continuous communication” with Pakistan’s military, to include recurring conversations between the two.
“We value mutual understanding of interests and concerns that we need to consider and might lead to a positive path forward,” US Central Command spokesman Air Force Colonel John Thomas said.
The ISPR said Gen Votel had told the army chief that the “US values Pakistan’s role towards war on terror and expected that ongoing turbulence remains a temporary phase. He also conveyed COAS that US is not contemplating any unilateral action inside Pakistan but is seeking cooperation to tackle Afghan nationals who, in US view, use Pakistan’s soil against Afghanistan”.
Gen Votel said the view that Pakistan was not being helpful was hurting its (Pakistan’s) view in Washington.
The broader contours of Gen Bajwa’s response shared with the US, as per the ISPR, included a commitment to continuing its operations against terrorism and an acknowledgment of the US concerns about the presence of Afghan militants.
“Pakistan is fully aware of US concerns on activities of Afghan nationals in Pakistan and we are already undertaking multiple actions through Operation Raddul Fasaad to deny any residual capacity to terrorists of all hue and colour for which return of Afghan refugees is an essential prerequisite,” Gen Bajwa was quoted as having told Gen Votel.
He told the American general that that the “entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed” over the US statements, but insisted Pakistan would continue to support peace efforts in the region despite being made a “scapegoat”.
Pakistan would not seek to unfreeze the funding, but did “expect honourable recognition of our contributions, sacrifices and unwavering resolve in fight against terrorism”, he said, adding that Pakistan would continue the counterterrorism operations without US’s financial support.
Gen Bajwa also communicated Pakistan’s expectations from the US, which included making Afghanistan agree to border control management and recognition of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.
“Pakistan is also strengthening border controls unilaterally but if Afghanistan genuinely feels affected from Pakistan, bilateral border management must be Kabul’s top priority as well,” Gen Bajwa said.
Afghanistan has been opposed to the border management because of its reservations over accepting the Durand Line as the international border.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018