Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in his scheduled visit to United States is expected to highlight the need for military action across Pak-Afghan border with the objective of taking the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb to its logical end. He will leave for US on November 15.
Defence sources told Business Recorder that General Raheel Sharif, in his first visit to the US as Chief of Army Staff, will hold talks with top US military leadership on issues ranging from defence co-operation, the Afghan conflict and the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb.
One of the agenda items for discussion, according to sources, will be the likely outcome of the US and Nato withdrawal scheduled for end of the current calendar year for the region with Pakistan deeply concerned over the possibility of an escalation in militancy.
Pakistan welcomed the recently signed defence agreement between the US and the newly-elected Afghan government, formally known as Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Under the pact, some 9,800 American and 2,000 Nato troops will still remain in Afghanistan until 2024 after the international combat mission formally ends on December 31.
The sources pointed out that Pakistan welcomed the continuing presence of the US and Nato troops, though their number much reduced, and maintains that their continued presence in Afghanistan will ensure border security. “Pakistan is particularly concerned at the cross-border infiltration and the lack of co-operation from the Afghan side after Pakistan military launched a comprehensive crackdown on terrorists in tribal areas adjacent to Afghanistan,” said a defence source.
The sources said the Army Chief, during his week-long visit, will also exchange views on the operation Zarb-e-Azb and urge the American military leadership to persuade the Afghan authorities to enhance security along the border to prevent militants’ escape from the ongoing military operation.
It is critical for the Afghan and Nato authorities to take action against the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership and activists who are taking shelter in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. “The government of Pakistan has been talking to US and Afghan authorities through various channels and it has been conveyed to them that an action against the terrorists hiding in Afghan territory is very crucial for the success of the Zarb-e-Azb,” the sources maintained. The sources said the Army Chief may also discuss the possibility of purchase of leftover military equipment following the completion of the combat mission by the end of this year. They said that Pakistani authorities are already in discussion with their US counterparts as Pakistan is keen to purchase US military leftover equipment.
The Army Chief is visiting the US on the personal invitation of Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. During his stay in the US, he is expected to meet Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, General Dempsey, Commander of the US Central Command General Lloyd J. Austin and other members of the American defence establishment. General Raheel Sharif is also likely to visit Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as its area of responsibility includes both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
SOURCE: RECORDER REPORT