The US made an offer to Pakistan to conduct a joint military offensive against the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pak-Afghan border region, in a move indicating that the two estranged allies have sought to cooperate in specific areas despite worsening ties.
However, the offer is linked with the Pakistani military agreeing to eliminate alleged sanctuaries of the Haqqani network on its side of the border, diplomatic sources revealed.
The idea was discussed in talks between US Gen John Allen, who is leading Nato-led US forces in Afghanistan, and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
An American official, privy to the development, told The Express Tribune that the US was willing to address Pakistan’s concerns on the cross border incursions blamed on the TTP.
The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media on the sensitive subject, said that US and Pakistani forces could conduct a joint operation in the border areas against the banned group.
However, he clarified that a joint operation does not mean US boots on Pakistani soil. “If the two sides agree, they can coordinate their operation to achieve the desired results,” the official added.
When contacted, the military refused to say what was discussed in the one-on-one meeting between Gen Allen and Gen Kayani.
An unnamed military official was quoted as telling AFP that Gen Kayani demanded greater efforts from the Americans on stopping cross-border incursions. “It was a routine meeting to discuss border coordination,” a senior Pakistani military official told AFP.
“We also raised the issue of cross-border attacks on the Pakistani military from Afghanistan. We demanded that Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) take action against militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan and eliminate the militant groups involved in cross-border attacks inside Pakistan,” he added.
Pakistan said around 100 Afghan-based militants crossed the border into the northwestern district of Upper Dir on Sunday. Six soldiers were killed and 11 went missing. Pakistani officials said Tuesday that seven of them were beheaded.
On Wednesday, a senior security official admitted that all 17 had in fact been beheaded after the TTP released a video showing the slaughtered heads.
Pakistan military blames the loyalists of Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric who led a two-year Taliban insurgency in the Swat valley before fleeing into Afghanistan to escape an army offensive in 2009.
But both the Afghans and the Americans repeatedly blame Pakistan for not doing more to eliminate havens on its soil, which are used as launch pads for attacks across the border.
Last Friday, Gen Allen pointed fingers at the Haqqani network, allegedly based in North Waziristan Agency, for a 12-hour siege on a lakeside hotel in Kabul that killed 18 people.
A US official described Wednesday’s talks between the two military commanders as ‘constructive’ seeking to overcome the difficulties in the bilateral relationship and promote cooperation between Isaf and the Pakistani military.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.