U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel has concluded two days of talks with civilian and military leaders in Pakistan, underscoring the need for the two countries to work together to ensure “greater regional security ad stability.”
“Military cooperation, and even stronger cooperation with Pakistan, is very important, and we deeply appreciate the hospitality and willingness to continue an honest and open relationship,” a U.S. Embassy statement issued Saturday quoted the general as saying.
“We are extraordinarily pleased to continue these enduring relationships,” Votel said.
Pakistan’s army also flew Votel’s delegation to North Waziristan, a remote mountainous tribal district near the Afghan border that until recently had been condemned as an epicenter of international terrorism.
The Pakistan military says sustained counterterrorism operations have cleared most of the tribal district, however, and authorities are currently in the process of resettling civilians uprooted by the conflict.
General Votel arrived in Pakistan on Friday as U.S. President Donald Trump was meeting with his top national security officials to discuss proposals about how to win the protracted war in Afghanistan.
U.S. and Afghan officials contend that Taliban insurgents and their Haqqani network ally are using Pakistani soil to plan insurgent activities.
“In his discussions with Pakistani leaders, he [Gen. Joseph Votel] emphasized that all parties must work to ensure that Pakistani soil is not used to plan or conduct terrorist attacks against its neighbors,” the statement from U.S. Central Command reads.
Votel met with Pakistan Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior members of Abbasi's cabinet before concluding his tour.
On Friday, the U.S. general held crucial talks with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that focused on the security situation in Afghanistan.
“More than financial or material assistance, we seek acknowledgement of our decades-long contributions towards regional peace and stability, understanding of our challenges, and most importantly, the sacrifices Pakistani nation and its security forces have rendered in the fight against terrorism and militancy,” Bajwa told the visiting American commander.
Cutting U.S. military aid to Pakistan to punish it for sheltering Taliban and Haqqani militants is among options the Trump administration reportedly is considering while preparing a new Afghan war strategy to break the stalemate with the Taliban.
Islamabad denies charges it is allowing insurgents to use Pakistani soil for attacks in Afghanistan, saying it is working for the stability and peace in the neighboring country in its own national interest.
"Pakistan had an important stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan as Pakistan has suffered the most due to conflict in that country," an official statement quoted Abbasi as telling the U.S. delegation.