BRUSSELS: The top US military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said on Monday he was committed to the US-Pakistan relationship, which has been strained in recent weeks as Washington piles pressure to crack down on militants.
“Do we agree on everything right now? No we don‘t. But are we committed to a more effective relationship with Pakistan? We are. And I‘m not giving up on that,” Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters during a trip to Brussels.
The United States has long blamed 'safe-havens in Pakistan' for prolonging the war in Afghanistan, giving insurgents, including from the Haqqani network, a place to plot attacks and rebuild their forces.
Senior Pakistan, US officials meet in Islamabad as part of 'regular engagement'
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump’s administration announced a plan to suspend up to roughly $2 billion in US security assistance.
In a Twitter post on the first day of 2018, Trump had accused Pakistan of ‘lying and deceit’ and providing safe havens to terrorists despite taking over $33 billion in aid.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Pakistan expressed ‘disappointment’ over the statement, but said the country would not act in haste.
In a possible sign of efforts to improve relations, Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad on Monday.
A statement from Foreign Ministry said Wells “acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism” and “underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation” to fight terrorism.
Dunford was careful in his public remarks but made clear that Votel would continue to lead the military-to-military discussions. Dunford said he and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would also contribute to that dialogue.
“I‘m not going to talk about the relationship in public because I‘m committed to try to improve the relationship and I do believe that the military-to-military dialogue led by General Votel, with occasional reinforcement from Secretary Mattis, myself and others, is the right approach,” Dunford said.