The United States has three strategic interests in Pakistan, according to the general expected to become the next chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In his confirmation hearing before a panel of the US Senate on Thursday, Gen Joseph F Dunford Jr listed these interests as preventing al Qaeda’s resurgence, preventing nuclear proliferation and promoting regional stability.
“The US and Pakistan share the common strategic interests of defeating al Qaeda and other extremist threats, ensuring regional stability, and furthering the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. We also share the goal of a stable peaceful Afghanistan,” he told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Ties with Pakistan are fundamental to US national security interests, said Gen Dunford.
“It is in our interests to have an enduring partnership with Pakistan. As our mission in Afghanistan transitions, there remains a need for our mutually beneficial relationship,” he said.
“Pakistan has cooperated with the US in our operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. Their actions in North Waziristan and other areas of western Pakistan have disrupted groups that are a threat to US personnel and objectives in Afghanistan.”
The general added that the US “will need to continue cooperation to defeat al Qaeda, support Pakistan’s stability and achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
Asked by the panel about his views on assistance provided by the US to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund, the general said: “Our assistance has enabled operations in Afghanistan and operations against al Qaeda and helped secure our strategic interests.”
Talking about Pakistan’s role in bringing about peace in Afghanistan, Dunford stressed that security in both countries is linked. He added that the US military has been pleased with the neighbours’ recent bilateral efforts to address their security concerns
“Both sides are working to ensure that concrete steps are taken to enhance their bi-lateral relationship and cooperation,” he told the panel.
Asked what he thought were areas of divergent interests between the US and Pakistan, the general listed views on the use of proxies by Islamabad and Pakistan-India ties.
General Dunford currently heads the Marine Corps, the branch of the US military tasked with projecting power from the sea. He was nominated for top military post in the US by President Barack Obama on May 15 this year. If his nomination is confirmed by the US Senate, Dunford will take over from General Martin Dempsey as the 19th Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.