US and Pakistani officials are considering joint counterterrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an American newspaper reported on Saturday, saying the move would mark an upturn in cooperation after more than a year of ‘rancorous’ relations.
“The campaigns would be intended to help stamp out major security threats facing each country, targeting what the US says are sanctuaries for the Haqqani network, and what Pakistan says are sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said in a dispatch on the talks ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam had with his CIA counterpart David Petraeus as well as officials of the State Department and Pentagon.
The plans are considered, at best, promising, the dispatch said, pointing out that US officials have long pressed Pakistani counterparts to target the Haqqani group, but without success.
In meetings with CIA’s Petraeus and other officials, Lt Gen Islam explained that US concessions on drones and the Taliban sites in Afghanistan would give Islamabad room to build domestic support for counterterrorism work with the US, the newspaper quoted officials as saying.
Under this proposal, the US would also work with Pakistan to control the Afghan side of the border, so militants driven out could not escape into the Afghan border region, these officials said.
The Pakistanis have named the planned offensive, in North Waziristan, Operation Tight Screw, according to WSJ.
“Pakistan’s democratic government is committed to moving forward with the US in many shared goals,” Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
She said her government is working to reshape its relationships in the region. “Better ties with the US can help us in this broader goal of creating equities for peace instead of volatility in a region that is going through many security transitions.”
“It’s a good beginning,” Vali Nasr, a former top State Department official who is dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told the newspaper.
He pointed out that in previous joint campaigns Pakistan has asked to be involved in all aspects of intelligence-gathering. But the US side has looked sceptically at Pakistani requests to share information about coming raids. “It’s always been a sticking point,” said Nasr, an American of Iranian descent.
Also discussed was Pakistan’s demand for a halt to CIA drone strikes in tribal region. But no agreement was reached on any changes to the programme, the newspaper said, citing officials.
US and Pakistani officials, according to the dispatch, both described this week’s meetings as productive and indicative of a higher level of trust than in previous meetings.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.