A top US general visited the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday and met Pakistani army chief in a development seen as renewed push by the two countries to seek defence and counterterrorism cooperation.
This was the first visit of Commander of the US Central Command (Centcom) General Michael E Kurilla since he was given the new role in April. This was also the first visit by any top US general to Pakistan since the then Centcom chief General Kenneth McKenzie visited Islamabad in February 2021.
Though there has been interaction between the two militaries but no American general visited Pakistan in the last 18 months, suggesting a hiccup in the bilateral relationship because of a chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan
The new Centcom chief spoke with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on July 30, just 48 hours before the CIA drone strike killed al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul. Pakistan, however, dismissed claims that the drone flew from its soil or its airspace was used.
But a flurry of recent exchanges between the two sides, both at political and military levels, suggested that there has been a reset in the relationship.
A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the Centcom commander had a one-on-one meeting with the army chief. “Matters of mutual interest, regional security situation & stability, defence and security cooperation particularly military to military ties were discussed during the meeting,” the military’s media wing said.
Pakistan and the US have longstanding defence ties, starting from the Cold War times. At one time Pakistan was dubbed as the “most allied” ally of the US. The close defence ties helped Pakistan get access to some of the advanced military hardware.
But the relationship has often been marred by mistrust as the two countries have had divergent views on certain strategic issues. The US increasing defence and strategic ties with India has worried Pakistan. Islamabad felt that Washington’s defence deals with New Delhi would harm the country’s interests.
Another factor that has shaken the longstanding relationship between Pakistan and the US is Islamabad’s ever-growing ties with Beijing, something Washington views with much suspicion. But despite those challenges, Pakistan is keen to maintain a delicate balance as it seeks close relationship with all international powers, including China and the US.
Meanwhile, the one-on-one call was followed by a delegation-level meeting. Pakistan Army’s counterterrorism efforts and significant contributions towards regional peace and stability were discussed. Pakistan-US military training exchange programme also came under discussion.
Commander US CENTCOM along with a delegation visited GHQ Rawalpindi today.— Pakistan Armed Forces 🇵🇰 (@PakistanFauj) August 18, 2022
Commander CENTCOM held a one-on-one meeting with General Qamar Javed Bajwa Chief Of Army Staff (COAS).@OfficialDGISPR #PakistanArmy #Pakistan #COAS #ISPR
The visiting dignitary acknowledged Pakistan Army’s commendable efforts in the fight against terrorism, counterterrorism experiences and efforts for regional peace and stability. Later, the visiting dignitary visited the Army Museum and took keen interest in various historical enclosures.
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