ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Raheel Sharif departed for Washington, DC, on Sunday to kick off a five-day visit that has generated a lot of interest in both Pakistan and the United States.
This is the second time Gen Raheel has visited the US this year and comes just a month after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington where he met US President Barack Obama. He is scheduled to meet senior military officials, as well as US Vice President Joe Biden, in the American capital, according to officials.
Foreign secretary rules out presence of Islamic State in Pakistan
Gen Raheel in his talks with US civil and military authorities will discuss the current security situation in the region, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Lt-Gen Asim Salim Bajwa, who is also in Washington, told The Express Tribune by telephone.
“The situation in Afghanistan will also figure during the talks,” the chief military spokesman said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, security officials in Islamabad said the army chief’s visit was planned three months ago and was aimed at interacting with US military authorities following recent changes there.
Would not allow even a shadow of Islamic State in Pakistan: army chief
They said the army chief will share Pakistan’s perspective on key regional issues, including Afghanistan, with his US interlocutors. The focus will be on reviving the stalled peace process, the officials added.
Speaking at a news conference in Washington, the ISPR DG said Pakistan was still committed to facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in the war-torn country.
Officials in Islamabad are hoping for a breakthrough which will pave the way for the resumption of peace talks following Gen Raheel’s talks with US authorities.
Talking about Pakistan’s ongoing fight against terrorism, Bajwa said that Operation Zarb-e-Azb had eliminated terror infrastructure from the tribal region.
Gen Raheel begins two-day visit to Saudi Arabia
He said some militants might have fled to Afghanistan due to the sustained campaign by the Pakistani security forces along the border. However, he regretted that Afghanistan had done little to deal with the fleeing militants.
His statement came amid fresh incident of rocket fire at the Pak-Afghan border.
The Pakistani Army said that rockets were fired from Afghan side at Angor Adda in South Waziristan Agency. Five rockets were landed near the vicinity of Pak-Afghan gate inside the Pakistan territory, said the ISPR in a statement.
“Pakistanis also fired in the direction from which rockets were fired. No loss reported,” the statement added.
US, China envoy visits lay ground for stalled peace talks
The latest border incident suggested that there was little headway in normalization of ties between the two neighbors despite efforts by Pakistan calling for re-engaging with Afghanistan.
The army chief’s visit also comes at a time when the world is outraged at the recent coordinated terrorist attacks in French capital France. There have been calls for more concerted efforts against the self-styled Islamic State, which has claimed the responsibility of the Paris attacks.
Officials said the emerging threat posed by IS would also be discussed during the army chief’s visit to the US.
Pakistan is adamant that IS has no footprints on its soil, although the group is reportedly established its foothold in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2015.