Washington backs Pak-Afghan border management plan, says Olson

McCain praises Pakistan Army’s ‘phenomenal’ counterterrorism achievements

Our Correspondent July 02, 2016
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard G Olson on February 6, 2016 at GHQ. PHOTO: ISPR

ISLAMABAD: Top civil and military authorities have conveyed to a high-level US Senate delegation that Pakistan’s effort to manage its border with Afghanistan is vital for its security as President Barack Obama’s point-man for the region said Washington supported Pakistan’s border management efforts.

The issue was highlighted by top civil and military officials in their meetings with a high-level American delegation and Obama’s senior aide Richard Olson. The US Senate delegation, led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, met army chief General Raheel Sharif at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhter also attended the meeting.

Pak-Afghan relations hold key to regional peace, General Raheel tells US

The military leadership apprised the US delegation of Pakistan’s concerns about illegal movement at its border with Afghanistan. They shared with the US senators Pakistan’s proposed border management plan, saying Islamabad could not compromise on the serious threats to its security. Pakistan has plans to build gates at all eight border crossings with Afghanistan to regulate the movement of travellers from Afghanistan because in most terrorist attacks on its soil the attackers were launched from the Afghan territory.

Afghan border guards opened unprovoked fire last month when authorities started building a gate at the Torkham border crossing in Khyber Agency. The resulting border skirmishes continued for six days and sparked a diplomatic row and a verbal duel between the two neighbours.

Ambassador Richard Olson, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who arrived in Islamabad on Friday, was also present in the meeting. Olson met the army chief and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry earlier in the day.

The US delegation’s visit comes at time when bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington are going through rough patch. The United States questions Islamabad’s sincerity in the fight against terrorism and its role in bringing normalcy to war-torn Afghanistan.

The strain in Pak-US ties was triggered by a series of events starting from the killing of Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US drone strike in Balochistan and the subsequent withdrawal of subsidised sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan and attaching of strings to US aid to Pakistan. The American support for India’s abortive attempt to seek a membership of the 48-member exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group further added to the unease between the two allies.

“COAS [Chief of the Army Staff] dilated upon security challenges faced by Pakistan and Pakistan’s contribution in regional stability and global peace. Pakistan’s successes in the war on terror, need for an effective  border management across long porous Pak-Afghan border to check illegal movement on either side of the border were also discussed,” the military’s media wing, the ISPR, said in a statement after Saturday’s meeting at the GHQ.

1,100km trench built alongside Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan

Matters of mutual interest and regional security, with a particular reference to the Afghanistan situation came under discussion, it added. “A stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest and the relationship between both countries hold key for regional peace and security,” the army chief was quoted by the ISPR as telling the US delegation.

Senator McCain acknowledged Pakistan’s successes in Operation Zarb-e-Azab, saying that “Pakistan Army’s achievements in counterterrorism operations are phenomenal and reflect Pakistan’s determination to eliminate terrorism”.

Olson supports Pakistan’s plans

Earlier Richard Olson met Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry at the foreign ministry where he supported Pakistan’s efforts on border management.

“Ambassador Olson appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. He stated that the US supported Pakistan’s efforts on border management,” the Foreign Office said in a statement after the meeting. The main talking points were the regional security situation and efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary underlined Pakistan’s focus on effective border management on Afghanistan-Pakistan border with a view to enhancing security and counterterrorism efforts. He apprised the US side of the creation of a high-level consultation mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan to address border management and related security issues, according to the Foreign Office statement.

Stressing the need for early repatriation of Afghan refugees, Chaudhry said Pakistan wanted the return of refugees to take place with dignity and honour. “Pakistan and Afghanistan should address this important matter through dialogue and consultations. The international community, including the US and the UNHCR, should lend their support to these efforts.”

The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) as an effective forum to facilitate an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process.

He recognised that Pakistan’s role in hosting Afghan refugees for more than 35 years should not be forgotten by the international community. In this regard, he underlined the need for creating pull factors for sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees.

Afghan ambassador denies agreement on gate construction at Torkham border

Pakistan is not to blame: McCain

Before flying into Islamabad, Senator McCain said in a TV interview that Pakistan cannot be blamed for United States’ ‘abject’ policy failure in Afghanistan. “We see an abject failure of American policy [in Afghanistan] and no strategy,” he told state-run PTV in the interview.

“I don’t blame Pakistan for that. I don’t blame [Afghanistan’s President] Ashraf Ghani for that. I blame the president of the United States, who has failed as a leader,” he said. “I blame the US [authorities] for not consolidating the gains that we made.”

McCain, in his interview, gave US President Barack Obama a scathing indictment. “This president [Obama] has had this idea for the last eight years that if pull out of conflicts, those conflicts will end,” he said. The visiting senator added the US was not only responsible for Afghanistan’s woes, but the recent airport attack in Turkey as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2016.


M.S. | 5 years ago | Reply General Raheel has done which no one before dare to even think off. Pakistan's problems cannot be solved without securing our borders. He and only he deserves to be our leader. No one else.
F35 | 5 years ago | Reply Now waiting for an official Release from the US Embassy to learn the truth.
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