WASHINGTON: US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey says that there are certain issues that they have still not been able to find common ground on with Pakistan as relations remain in limbo.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, CJCS General Dempsey said, “I’ve been working with US-Pakistan relations in earnest since 2005…its always surprising to me, we do some things very well, we have some interests on which we co-operate, and on some issues we have not been able to find common ground.”
General Dempsey lamented that issues including that of Haqqani Network and the presence of the Afghan Taliban in FATA were areas where both countries have failed to move forward. He said that the Haqqani Network was as big a threat to Pakistan as it was to Afghanistan and the US, “but we have not been able to find common ground on that, and that is frustrating.”
In response to a question on Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s remarks on the US being at war in FATA, General Dempsey said that the US is at war with al Qaeda, and that they would pursue them. He added that al Qaeda was present in FATA.
“Al Qaeda remains a factor both inside of the Federally Administered Tribal Area in Pakistan, to a much lesser extent inside Afghanistan. And all I can tell you is that we remain at war with al Qaeda and we will confront them wherever we find them.”
“Pakistan is at war in the FATA, and with us, in some cases, not with any US military personnel, with us in the sense that they are trying to diminish the effect of those insurgencies on that side of the border.”
On the subject of Pakistan, General Dempsey said, “Pakistan, with us, is at war in FATA with other groups.” The General then turned diplomat as he added that while the US was “extraordinarily dissatisfied” on the subject of the Haqqani Network and Pakistan, that they were mindful of the fact that Pakistan has also been carrying out military operations with great losses in FATA. He said that Pakistan has also been trying to diminish the effect of the insurgency and remained an important partner.
“We continue to work on any number of things, whether it’s GLOCs or the safe haven or activities — kinetic activities in the FATA. And we just have to keep at it, because Pakistan’s an important partner. But there are some things that we just have to keep after.”
When asked about Secretary Panetta’s remarks about losing patience with Pakistan over the Haqqani Network, General Dempsey said that the goal is to get the Haqqani Network’s influence to recede in the eastern part of Afghanistan, which is where the group was based and operated. He said that last year they had been focused on the southern part of Afghanistan, and in 2012, they are focusing on the eastern part of Afghanistan “that’s where Haqqani is.”
Along with the apparent lack of convincing action on the Haqqani network by Pakistani forces , Dempsey said a major challenge was the increased activity displayed by the militant group which may hamper their transition deadline. “This is the hardest part of the transition.” The CJCS said that they have to reduce the group’s influence in order to meet their transition deadline.
General Dempsey also said that they had hard intelligence linking the Haqqani Network to the attack in Afghanistan last month, and that the group had become more active. “They are rising in importance in our view.”