WASHINGTON: A planned meeting between US and Pakistani military chiefs was postponed this week due to a wave of violent anti-American protests, the top-ranking US officer, General Martin Dempsey, said on Thursday.
Dempsey revealed at a news conference that he had scheduled a discreet trip to Pakistan to meet chief of the army staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, but the two agreed to call off the talks amid unrest on the streets of Pakistani cities.
“I was originally planned to go to Pakistan to meet with General Kayani, and because of some of the issues related to that film, he and I discussed postponing that visit — mostly so that I would give him the time to deal with the issues he was dealing with internally,” said Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Pakistan has been rocked by days of violent protests in its major cities as demonstrations have swept Muslim countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia over an anti-Islam film, a crude production by American amateurs.
Instead, Dempsey said he extended an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, visiting the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.
The general did not take reporters with him and his office made no public announcement about his Afghan trip.
Dempsey has adopted a lower profile than his media-friendly predecessor, Admiral Mike Mullen, who at times publicly diverged from the White House's stance on some issues.
Unlike the previous chairman, Dempsey has taken a number of overseas trips without any press documenting his visits, including a meeting of Nato officers in Romania last week.
The general denied that he had kept the trip under wraps because of any doubts about the war effort in Afghanistan, where a rise in insider attacks by Afghan forces has caused concern at the Pentagon.