ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - The U.S. commander of international forces in Afghanistan undertook a rare trip to neighboring Pakistan's North Waziristan border district that until recently was condemned as the "epicenter" of global terrorism.
The Pakistan military said Monday its local commanders briefed General John Nicholson of NATO's Resolute Support mission (RSM) on counterterrorism operations and post-conflict social development underway in the area near the Afghan border.
"Visitors were taken to Miranshah bazaar where they saw the development work being undertaken by the Pakistan army. General John Nicholson appreciated successful operations conducted by Pakistan army," according the official statement.
Pakistan's military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, accompanied the visiting American general.
The tribal territory, which borders Afghanistan, used to be a hub of local and international terrorists linked to groups, including al-Qaida, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and a staging ground for cross-border insurgent attacks. Until recently, the area was the scene of frequent U.S. drone strikes against suspected militant hideouts, killing scores of them.
But the Pakistan military says the Waziristan district has been mostly cleared of insurgents since it undertook a massive ground and air offensive in June 2014, destroying terrorist communication and bomb-making infrastructure there, and killing more than 3,500 militants.
The crackdown has led to a significant reduction in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. But Afghan officials allege the operations have spared militants active on their side of the border, charges Islamabad denies as politically motivated.
Genera Nicholson also discussed border security matters with Bajwa before traveling to the Waziristan district, the army statement said.
Bajwa emphasized the need for putting in place a "bilateral border security mechanism" between Pakistan and Afghanistan and called for the NATO mission to play its "important role" in making it possible, it added.
"The visiting dignitary acknowledged the requirement of bilateral border security coordination," it added.
Pakistan shares a 2,600-kilometer largely pours border with Afghanistan and has lately stepped up measures to boost security on a frontier Kabul has long refused to acknowledge as an international boundary.