Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Pakistani army leader visits US for military talks

AFP, WASHINGTON

Pakistan’s army chief is holding talks with top US generals and officials this week in the first visit to the US by the nation’s powerful military commander in four years, officials said Monday.

Pakistani Army General Raheel Sharif’s trip comes against the backdrop of improved relations between the two governments, with Washington encouraged by Pakistan’s offensive against Muslim militants in the nation’s northwest.

After arriving in Washington on Sunday, Sharif held talks at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, on Monday and was scheduled to meet US Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey and US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work over the following two days, US officials told reporters.

It is his first trip to the US since he took over the post in November last year, and the first of any Pakistani army head since 2010.

Sharif’s predecessor had an often tense relationship with Washington amid accusations that Islamabad was failing to take action against Haqqani Network extremists and other insurgents based in Pakistan who orchestrate attacks on US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

A senior US officer in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, US Army Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, told reporters earlier this month that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had “fractured” the Haqqani Network.

The Pakistani military campaign “has very much disrupted their efforts here and has caused them to be less effective in terms of their ability to pull off an attack here in Kabul,” Anderson said by video link from Kabul.

US officials are also hopeful that new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is able to bolster cooperation and dialogue between Kabul and Islamabad, just as NATO’s military force is set to withdraw from the fight against the Taliban.

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