ISLAMABAD: The troubled Pak-US relations continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. Military commanders from Pakistan and the United States will today (Thursday) make yet another effort to ease their strained ties that were served another blow thanks to a new White House report that censured Islamabad for lacking a sound strategy for defeating the Taliban in the tribal areas.
US Central Command (Centcom) chief Gen James Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday evening for talks with Pakistani military top brass on `operational matters` with a specific focus on issues that have soured the military-military ties are impeding cooperation in the war against militancy.
His arrival was preceded by the submission of a White House bi-annual assessment to Congress that not only painted a grim picture of the deficits in Pakistan`s counter-insurgency efforts but also mentioned the reluctance of Pakistan`s military in accepting American help for problems such as the maintenance of helicopters.
The report has alleged that Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, continues to be the operational base of Al Qaeda and its affiliates threatening global peace.
The White House assessment is understood to have further annoyed the Pakistan military, which has deployed 147,000 troops in the tribal areas to fight the militants.
The military leadership has already been complaining of American arrogance and high-handedness in its dealings with Pakistan. Defence analysts believe that the latest war appraisal is sure to affect the mood of the talks that were meant to resolve the contentious issues in the bilateral relationships.
Pakistan military`s spokesman Maj-Gen Ather Abbas rejected the White House report for having misinterpreted the situation on the ground, particularly the Mohmand operation.
The latest phase of the Mohmand operation was taking place in areas that had been left out in previous campaigns, he said, adding that the fight against the militants was an uphill task and was progressing slowly.
He reminded the Americans of the successes in Swat, Bajaur and Orakzai despite capacity constraints.
The spokesman also contradicted the report`s claim that Pakistan is not accepting US help for maintaining its helicopters; he said the Americans didn`t provide spare parts and more helicopters in time to meet the military`s requirement that was higher at the moment because of the excessive flying of its current fleet during last year`s floods.
However, it appears as if the anger of the Pakistani military leadership may fall on deaf American ears.
Gen Mattis`s message is going to be in line with the report; US military sources indicated that while he would acknowledge Pakistan`s sacrifices, he would highlight the threat posed to the stability of Pakistan and the world at large by the continued presence of Al Qaeda sanctuaries and safe havens for other extremist groups in the tribal regions.
The Americans are particularly concerned about the impact of what it sees as Pakistan`s faltering in the fight against militants on the stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan.
And as one American official put it, Gen Mattis would tell Pakistan that notwithstanding the challenges in ties, the US remained committed to an enduring partnership and being a steadfast partner. Whether or not these words will soothe the ruffled feathers of the Pakistani generals remains to be seen.