ISLAMABAD - Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has ruled out any joint military operation with the US forces in North Waziristan, saying any offensive in the tribal region, if carried out, would be Pakistan’s own decision and not a result of external pressure.
General Kayani said the joint operation with US forces was unacceptable to the people and the armed forces of Pakistan and hence it had always been a clearly stated red line.
He was talking to General James N Mattis, Commander US CENTCOM, who called on him on Thursday night. Both sides discussed matters of mutual interest at length. “The COAS categorically dispelled the speculative reporting in US media, regarding understanding given to General John Allen, Commander ISAF about Pakistan Army’s readiness to launch joint operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA),” said an ISPR statement issued on Friday. “The COAS clarified Pakistan’s position by referring to Secretary Clinton’s statement of July 3, 2012, in which she talked of coordinated actions against terrorists who threaten Pakistan and the region,” it said. General Kayani said, “It is important to distinguish between ‘coordinated action’ and ‘joint operation’. ‘Coordinated action’ implies that Pakistan Army and ISAF conduct operation on respective sides of Pak-Afghan border. For such actions, intelligence sharing is the mainstay of mutual cooperation.
Contrarily, a ‘joint operation’ implies that the two forces are physically employed jointly on either side of the border.”
The army chief said a joint operation in that sense was unacceptable to the people and armed forces of Pakistan.
He clearly reiterated Pakistan’s oft repeated perspective: “We might, if necessary, undertake operations in NWA, in the timeframe of our choosing and determined only by our political and military requirements,” according to statement.
“It will never be a result of any outside pressure. Pakistan’s national interest continues to be the prime consideration for any decision in this regard,” General Kayani said.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the level of cooperation between the two militaries and resolved to continue it to further improve relations between the two countries.
The US has been pushing Pakistan for months to launch an offensive in North Waziristan against the “Haqqani network”, which the US officials claim is based there, but Islamabad has been resisting the American pressure on grounds that its military is overstretched due to involvement in anti-terrorism activities in the Tribal Areas.
According to a security official, who sought anonymity, General Kayani observed that statements by US officials about North Waziristan operation would not help the ongoing efforts by Islamabad and Washington to improve their relations and bring them back to the right track.
He said both sides discussed ways how to improve border coordination between the Pakistan Army and ISAF-led NATO troops in Afghanistan against the militants on both sides of Afghan border.
A US embassy statement said Gen James Mattis left Islamabad on Friday morning after a series of meetings with senior Pakistani commanders and officials, including General Kayani and Defense Secretary Lt Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik. During his meetings with senior Pakistani military officials, Mattis discussed a “wide range of common security issues, (including) militant network activities and measures to improve cross-border cooperation”. Mattis reaffirmed the importance of the US-Pakistani security relationship—not only to the ongoing operations in Afghanistan, but to regional stability as well. The US and Pakistani military officials agreed to meet periodically to further common objectives on cross-border cooperation and regional security.