ISLAMABAD: The United States will respond to Pakistan’s request for new military hardware at the Defence Consultative Group meeting in August, said a senior Pentagon official on Thursday. This is billed to open a new chapter of defence cooperation between the two nations.
David Samuel Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, said that Islamabad briefed the US about its defence requirements during the Defence Working Group talks held here.
He said the US government would consider these demands in the Defence Consultative Group meeting, scheduled for August.
The defence officials of both the sides met in Rawalpindi from June 7 to 10. The Defence Working Group, known as Exchange on Defence Planning, was the first sectoral working group within the framework of the strategic dialogue.
The cautious David Samuel did not share the details of Pakistan’s defence needs and also shied away from discussing the new areas of cooperation. He said that the working group would again meet in July and try to finalise the outcomes before the meeting of the Defence Consultative Group.
“The Pakistan Army is in need of equipment. In the first step, we listened about the priorities and in the next step equipment demands would be discussed,” he added.
David A Ochmanek, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Force Development said that the end point of the talks would be the statement of needs, being prepared by Pakistani defence authorities, which would be considered in the Consultative Group meeting.
Lieutenant-General (retired) Talat Masood, a defence analyst, said that Pakistan needs equipment which may be relevant to counter-insurgency operations such as helicopters, replacement of certain equipment and more ammunition.
Sedney said that during the talks both sides made good progress to bridge the trust deficit but there was still a long way to go. “Particularly in public domain there is still trust deficit”.
He said the US government made a mistake when it stopped the military cooperation and exchange of defence delegates by imposing sanctions on Pakistan in the 1990s. Such mistakes would not be repeated. He said the military training has been doubled over the years.
He said there was tangible progress on the issue of the Coalition Support Fund and Washington has disbursed about $1.3 billion. “The CSF disbursement process should become a regular and predictable phenomenon so there are no hiccups.”
He said the two sides discussed and reviewed cooperation in defence relations, focused on mutual challenges associated with the multi-year cooperation. They also reviewed mechanisms for prioritising and integrating security and defence capability requirements.
“The objective of the talks was how to translate the strategies into assistance,” he added.
Sedney said there was no discussion on the issue of prudent and relevant use of the American defence assistance. But the government of Pakistan has already assured that the assistance would only be used for the defence purposes. He said the commonality of threats also figured in the talks.
David A Ochmanek said that negotiations were also held on the military capabilities. The US security priorities were to win the war against violent extremism and prepare for future challenges. “It is the opening of a new chapter in defence cooperation,” said Ochmanek, who is an expert in US security priorities.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 11th, 2010.
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