Security forces attacked Taliban positions in the Mohmand tribal districts as the top military leadership of Pakistan and the United States met on Thursday in a bid to iron out differences, which have the potential to disrupt Western plans to pull out from Afghanistan.
Backed by helicopters, security forces targeted militant hideouts in several villages in Mohmand, killing at least 25 militants, according to a government spokesperson.
“We had information that militants had fled to these areas and were planning to attack security forces so we went after them,” Mohmand administration official Amjad Ali Khan told Reuters by telephone.
The operation came against the backdrop of a meeting between the head of the US Central Command (Centcom) General James N Mattis and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Separately, General James also called on Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne.
Relations between Islamabad and Washington became strained after CIA operative Raymond Davis killed two people in Lahore in January. Davis was subsequently released after having paid ‘blood money’.
The brief statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the two military commanders discussed matters of professional interest including the situation in Afghanistan and the Pak-US bilateral military cooperation.
Pakistan military officials described the meeting as ‘positive and constructive.’
“Obviously, it takes some time to normalise relations following the Raymond Davis controversy,” said a security official, who requested not to be named. “The meeting will certainly help in bringing the relations back on track.”
“General Kayani has conveyed Pakistan’s concerns on certain issues,” the official told The Express Tribune but would not share further details.
The meeting came hours after Pakistan strongly rejected a White House report that doubts its efforts to fight militants along the Afghan border.
At her weekly news briefing, the Foreign Office spokesperson termed the report ‘unwarranted’, saying Pakistan should not be held accountable for the west’s failings in Afghanistan.
Presented to the US lawmakers this week, the Obama administration’s report claims Pakistan has made little progress to defeat militants.
“There remains no clear path towards defeating the insurgency in Pakistan, despite the unprecedented and sustained deployment of over 147,000 forces,” it says. In addition, the report raised concerns about political gridlock and economic problems plaguing the nation.
“We do not entirely share the US assessment,” asserted the Foreign office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua in a carefully-worded statement.
She said Pakistan had clear strategy in dealing with the militants. “And in doing so will solely be guided by Pakistan’s national interest,” she added.
“We believe that relations between Pakistan and the US, or between any other two countries, should be based on principles,” remarked Tehmina when asked to comment on the current status of Pakistan-US relations.
But she acknowledged that the two countries needed to iron out differences on Afghanistan.
“There is undoubtedly recognition of the need for genuine and honest engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US to overcome what are perceived to be common challenges and shared goals. Pakistan will be engaging with the US on these matters,” Tehmina maintained.
The strained ties have put on hold a crucial trilateral meeting on Afghanistan endgame. The three-way talks among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US were originally scheduled in February this year.
However, the Raymond Davis controversy led to its postponement and since then Islamabad and Washington have been struggling to agree on new dates for the meeting. Additional reporting by Reuters
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2011.
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