ISLAMABAD/ HOUSTON: After months of frost, US-Pakistan alliance showed on Thursday just how far the thaw had come in a short period of time – or, as a top US commander called it, “an upward spiral” in relations.
While the top US commander in Afghanistan General John Allen and Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met in Rawalpindi, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam spent a busy day in Washington meeting top congressional leaders at a dinner.
Before the two meetings, Pakistan had confirmed that it had received a massive $1.1 billion from the US under the overdue Coalition Support Fund (CSF) – the first such payment in close to two years.
In Rawalpindi, “significant progress” was being made in improving cooperation between the allies during the army chief’s meeting with the top US commander in Afghanistan – including on the divisive issue of the Haqqani network.
The talks between Gen Allen and Gen Kayani at the General Headquarters focused on improving security along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and cooperation between Afghan, Pakistani and Nato troops, said a statement released by both sides.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the army chief assured Gen Allen that Pakistan would take action against ‘terrorist sanctuaries’ in the tribal areas provided the US shares ‘actionable intelligence’.
Without naming the Haqqani network, a joint statement said Gen Allen and Gen Kayani agreed to expand opportunities for coordinated action against what it called “terrorists on respective sides of the border who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region.”
According to sources, the statement was referring to the Haqqani network as well as militants that have launched repeated cross-border raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces. The two generals discussed various options to eliminate the Haqqani network and other insurgent groups, the sources added.
The offer by the army chief appears to be a significant departure from Islamabad’s previous reluctance to go after the Haqqani network. However, that may change now, as the two countries publicly hinted at coordinated operations against groups threatening peace on either side of the border. US officials have called repeatedly on Pakistan to move against the Haqqani network, a militant faction loyal to the Afghan Taliban.
Earlier this week, The New York Times claimed that General Kayani recently told US officials in private that he would launch a three-phase military operation against the Haqqanis over the next 12 months.
After the meeting Allen, who is on his first visit since Islamabad ended a blockade on Nato supplies, said that “significant progress” was being made in improving cooperation. “I look forward to these visits and am pleased with the upward spiral in our relationship they represent,” Allen said.
Kayani was quoted as saying that Thursday’s meeting had “helped towards improving strategic and operational understanding between the Pakistan military and Isaf.”
ISI chief in US
ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam had a busy day in Washington during his first official trip to the US. Islam met top congressional leaders at a dinner hosted by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, sources told The Express Tribune. The guest list included Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers, and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, while Deputy CIA Director Mike Morrell and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also attended the reception, according to sources.
While no details were immediately forthcoming about the mood of the meetings, a source said that the ISI leader discussed mutual challenges and ways to go forward on joint concerns with the US. Broad strategic issues and opportunities for “new beginnings” were also discussed.
The Pakistan Embassy and the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the ISI chief’s visit.
The ISI Director is scheduled to meet CIA Director David Petraeus and US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman.
Washington released $1.1 billion following the signing of a new agreement between Pakistan and US on Nato convoys. The fund, which is designed to reimburse Pakistan for the cost of counter-insurgency operations, paid $8.8 billion to Pakistan between 2002 and 2011. But Islamabad stopped claiming the money as relations collapsed in the wake of the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“We received $1.118 billion from the coalition support fund last night,” Syed Wasimuddin, spokesman for the central State Bank of Pakistan, told AFP. He said it was the first installment since $633 million in December 2010. (ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.