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On December 21, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson, told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there is an increasing recognition in Pakistan to defeat the Tehreek-i-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP), but added, they must also fight the Afghan Taliban.
Richard Olson said that Pakistani forces have focused more on TTP than they have on external terrorist actors that have threatened its neighbours, whether Afghanistan or India. However, Pakistan has repeatedly rejected US claims that Pakistan had not acted against the Haqqani network, saying an ongoing military offensive in FATA has targeted all militants “without discrimination”. Pakistan also insists that the Haqqani network had been severely damaged in the military operation in North Waziristan.
On December 18, US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Olson, told Congress that the US has held candid discussions with Pakistan on its shortrange nuclear weapons and Pakistan is willing to engage with the US on this issue.
Richard Olson also told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Obama 30 Administration was ‘not negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan’. Richard Olson also said that the US continues to urge Pakistan to restrain its nuclear weapons and missile development. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to insist that the country was forced to make tactical nuclear weapons to counter India’s Cold-Start doctrine. Pakistan remains concerned over the Indian actions to move its cantonments close to the Pakistani border allowing India to shift its conventional weapons closer to Pakistan.
On December 16, the two-day (Dec 16 -17) 24th meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group (DCG) was held in Washington DC. Defence Secretary Lt. General (R) Muhammad Alam Khattak led the Pakistani delegation in the talks while Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Christine Wormuth led the US team.
During defence talks with Pakistan, the US discussed the political and security situation in the region with the Pakistani delegation. The Pakistani delegation also provided an update on their cooperative activities with the Afghan National Defence and Security Force, and both sides agreed that continued cooperation, particularly border management between Pakistan and Afghanistan, is critical to meeting the enduring security requirements on both sides of the border.
On December 15, a Pakistani delegation headed by Defence Secretary, Muhammad Alam Khattak, reached Washington to attend the 24th meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group (DCG).
The meetings between the officials from both sides are due to be held on December 16-17, 2015. The 24th DCG aims to focus on matters related to strategic and conventional stability in the region.
On December 10, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, held meetings with the US Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, accompanied by the US Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, and US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson, at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
The agenda during the discussion focused on issues related to security challenges while both sides reiterated their resolve for an early resumption of Afghan peace process.
On December 7, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Olson, held a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, at General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi. Along with regional security matters, Afghanistan reconciliation process came under discussion during the meeting.
Earlier, on December 6, Richard Olson said in Afghanistan that the revival of ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan could ensure a better future for the region.
On December 3, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan said during the US-Pakistan Clean Energy Business Opportunities Conference in Washington that the US intends to promote new private sector investment in the country’s energy sector.
The conference was one of the first outcomes of the US-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Barack Obama announced in Washington in October 2015.
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On November 25, a US drone strike killed a senior commander of the Tehreek-iTaliban Pakistan (TTP), Khan Saeed, in Afghanistan near the border with the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Khan Saeed ‘Sajna’ was the leader of Taliban’s Mehsud faction who is also believed to have been a key figure in carrying out several terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.
On November 21, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif on a visit to Washington DC, met with the acting US National Security Adviser (NSA). During the meeting, matters related to counter-terrorism and measures to halt terrorists financing came under discussion.
Terror financing remains a primary concern in Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistan has intensified the crackdown on entities and individuals involved in terrorist financing. However 30 critics say the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan lack proper training to investigate the financing of terrorist activities. · On November 22, Pakistan and the US, during the Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif visit to the US (November 15-20), agreed to work together for an early resumption of the stalled Afghan reconciliation process. · In a related development on November 18, Pakistan’s Army chief met with CIA chief John Brennan to discuss security challenges facing the region. During the meeting, General Raheel Sharif said that there is a need for creating a conducive environment in the region for the resumption of Afghan reconciliation process. Pakistan remains concerned over the role of the Afghan security establishment in the Afghan peace process. Earlier in July 2015, the Afghan intelligence leaked the news about the death of Mullah Omar, which resulted in the cancellation of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban being hosted by Pakistan. Experts say that the prospects for an early resumption of a peace dialogue appear dim due to the increased fragmentation amongst the Taliban fighters.
On November 20, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif during his five-day US visit, met with US Vice President Joe Biden. During the meeting, both sides exchanged views on issues of mutual interest, regional security and stability.
US Vice President acknowledged Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts, but the meeting between Joe Biden and Raheel Sharif was mainly focused on the Afghanistan issue. During the discussion, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to restart the peace process in Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s Army Chief was urged to step-up Pak-Afghan border management to counter the emerging challenges. US views Pakistan as a major stakeholder in the Afghan reconciliation process and has repeatedly encouraged Pakistan to facilitate the peace process between Afghan government and the Taliban.
On November 19, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, during his five-day US visit met with US Secretary of State, John Kerry to discuss matters related to regional stability.
During the meeting Pakistan’s Army Chief also highlighted the need to resolve the Kashmir issue. 31 The army chief underlined the need for resolution of the longstanding Kashmir dispute for long-term peace in the region. According to media reports the army chief has urged more proactive role of the US for conflict resolution in the South Asian region. · On November 18, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif met with US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon and discussed Pakistan-US defence relations and matters related to regional security. During the meeting the Defence Secretary acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in fighting terrorism. The Pakistani military has conducted a major offensive against militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan. Earlier in October 2015, US President Barack Obama also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in combating terrorism. The relationship between the US and Pakistan has seen a gradual improvement, which several US officials say is crucial to the future of region, particularly Afghanistan.
On November 13, a US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), in a report urged the Obama Administration to persuade India to resume talks with 26 Pakistan for reducing tensions in South Asia.
The report also urged the Obama Administration to end the sale of any defence equipment to Pakistan if it does not “rein in terror”. In recent years the US has mounted a major push to expand its military ties with India. Critics argue that the Obama Administration has ignored repeated warnings from Pakistan that the US’s strategic tilt towards India has upset the strategic balance between the two South Asian nuclear armed states. On the issue of terrorism, Pakistan says the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azab has achieved great success in eliminating terrorism from Pakistan and the operation has brought comparative peace in Pakistan. Pakistan’s military claims that it has destroyed 837 militant hideouts in North Waziristan, conducted 9,000 intelligence based operations and killed 2,763 militants. Pakistan has remained a major victim of attacks by Al Qaeda and other extremist militant organisations taking lives of more than 50,000 Pakistanis. Pakistan during the last 14 years has suffered heavy losses – approximately of $107 billion as a result of the war on terrorism.
On November 12, US President Barack Obama’s Adviser Dr Peter Lavoy and acting US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller visited Islamabad to ease relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a related development, on November 12, Acting Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller during a meeting with Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi encouraged rapprochement between the two neighbouring countries and praised Pakistan’s role for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan During the high level exchanges with Pakistan’s officials, Peter Lavoy was told of actions taken by the Afghan authorities that offended Pakistani officials and widened the gap between two countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long history of mistrust and both have accused each other of harbouring the other’s opponents and interfering in their internal affairs. However Tariq Fatmi reiterated Pakistan’s desire to strengthen the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and stressed that peace in Afghanistan was vital for regional stability.
On November 4, a US Congressional report said that India’s goals in Afghanistan are to deny Pakistan strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond.
The report also points out that US-Pakistan relations had “improved somewhat”. It also notes that India does not want Pakistan to gain “preponderant” influence in Afghanistan. The report also underscored US and Indian mutual interests in Afghanistan citing India and Afghanistan 2011 Strategic Partnership agreement saying it “demonstrated India’s support for US efforts to better integrate Afghanistan into regional political, economic, and security structures”. However, Pakistan accuses India of facilitating anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan.
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On October 29, the US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that Pakistan should take effective action against Lashkar-e-Taiba and that the terrorists still have safe havens in FATA.
Pakistan says that the on-going military operation has damaged the Haqqani network. However, the US says that the action taken by the Pakistan against the Haqqani network is not adequate and has ramped up pressure on Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network. The US has blamed the Haqqani network for carrying out a series of attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks. However, Pakistan during PM Nawaz visit to the US has pledged to take effective action against all the UN designated terror groups, which also includes Lashkar-e-Taiba.
On October 24, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defence, and held meeting with the US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
During PM Nawaz’s visit to the Pentagon, both sides discussed matters related to regional peace and security including Pakistan’s outreach to Afghanistan. · On October 23, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with US President Barack Obama during his three-day (October 20 – 23) visit to the US. According to a joint statement the two leaders agreed the bilateral security relationship between Pakistan and the US will continue to be integral to regional stability. Both countries also agreed to take effective action against all terrorist groups which also includes Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network. The mention of LET was for the first time; however the United States has long pressed the Pakistan government to act against the Haqqani network. Islamabad has said it would target any militants, including the Haqqani. US also praised Pakistan’s efforts in reviving peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Experts believe that the recent visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the US comes at a tense time as Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India remain fragile. During talks between Sharif and Obama, Pakistan also insisted on a third party role to help India and Pakistan resolve their differences particularly on Kashmir. The US however continued to assert that the issues between India and Pakistan should be resolved bilaterally.
On October 19, the US State Department spokesperson, Helaena White said that Washington has no doubts over Pakistan’s capabilities to defend its nuclear sites and devices, adding “Pakistan has a professional and dedicated security force that understands the importance of nuclear security”.
In recent years, the Obama Administration has shown full confidence over Pakistan nuclear safety and has termed Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state. Pakistan has taken steps to strengthen its nuclear control by strengthening its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Pakistan has also established an effective nuclear command and control system (NCA), which exercises operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Pakistan has also developed strong mechanisms for regulating nuclear safety and radiation protection aspects of civilian nuclear installations, which is overseen by Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA).
On October 19, a resolution was moved in the US Congress by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and Representative Joe Pitts urging American lawmakers to reaffirm their support for strengthening the democratic process in Pakistan.
The resolution also expressed unity with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against terrorism. It also notes that Pakistan has remained a major victim of attacks by Al Qaeda and other extremist militant taking lives of more than 50,000 Pakistanis. Pakistan during the last 14 years has suffered heavy losses – approximately of $107 billion as a result of the war on terrorism.
On October 18, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor (NSA), Sartaj Aziz said that the United States should refrain from fanning instability in South Asia.
Experts say South Asia has experienced a significant change in the strategic stability and the conventional disparity between the two nuclear armed neighbours, India and Pakistan has upset the strategic balance in South Asia. Observers suggests that the role of the US remain critical given the complexity of deterrence instability in South Asia and suggests that the promotion of strategic stability is necessary for the region in order to avoid any large-scale conflict. Critics argue that the Obama Administration has ignored repeated warnings from Pakistan that the US’s strategic tilt towards India has upset the strategic balance between South Asia’s nuclear armed states.
On October 7, a report published in Washington Post claimed that the United States is exploring an option that could lead off a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan like the one concluded with India in 2005.
Early in April 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also termed Pakistan’s nuclear programme as safe and secure and also acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in maintaining the safety and security of its nuclear programme. Nuclear experts in Pakistan argue that Pakistan has always suggested that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should adopt a criteria-based approach rather than country based exceptions. Pakistan faces growing energy shortages and observers in Pakistan say that the civil nuclear access to Pakistan will help the country to overcome its growing energy shortages.
On October 7, the top US military commander in Afghanistan General John F. Campbell said that Pakistan’s military no longer discriminates between ‘good and bad’ Taliban.
He also said that Pakistan has undertaken aggressive operations against terrorists operating in its tribal border regions. General John Campbell also praised Pakistan’s peace efforts saying “Pakistan remains integral to stability in Afghanistan”. Cooperation between the turbulent neighbours, both battling fierce militant insurgencies, is seen as the key to peace in Afghanistan, since Pakistan is widely believed to wield considerable influence over the peace process between the Afghan government and Taliban.
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On September 17, US President Barack Obama said the United States has done “an incredible job” in going after and systematically dismantling the core Al Qaeda network in FATA.
Central Investigation Agency (CIA) turned to drone strikes to target Taliban and Al-Qaeda network in FATA. However, the use of drones in an undeclared war zone raised many legal questions and concerns worldwide. It is also believed that drones actually led to more people joining the militants. President Obama however also did not mention Pakistan’s efforts in dismantling the militant network in FATA. Pakistan suffered heavy losses approximately of $107 billion during the last 14 years as a result of the war on terrorism after 9/11.
On September 14, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif met with top US and NATO commander General John Campbell to discuss the stalled Afghan reconciliation process.
In a related development on September 14, acting American Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc held meetings with Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership to discuss the ongoing cooperation in the region. The army chief reportedly informed the American delegation that Pakistan was committed to facilitating the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. However, he cautioned that Afghanistan’s anti-Pakistan propaganda would not serve any purpose. US views Pakistan as a critical player in bringing the Taliban into peace talks; however some observers have suggested that the Taliban may want to delay formal peace talks in anticipation of a stronger negotiating position.
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On August 30, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited Islamabad and held meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. Susan Rice also urged Pakistan to take concrete steps against the Haqqani terror network that has allegedly claimed responsibilities for the recent spate of attacks in Afghanistan and its capital Kabul.
In a related development on August 20, the US Department of Defence told Pakistan that it would not be certifying to the Congress that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operation in North Waziristan damaged the Haqqani network. The United States has long pressed for Pakistani action against the Haqqanis. Islamabad has said it would target any militants, including the Haqqanis, as they proceed with the military operation. The United States accuses the Pakistani intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani militants and using them as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against the growing influence of India. However Pakistan denies these allegation. The meetings came at a tense time for Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and India, along with uncertainty over whether the US will release $300m in military aid to Pakistan. Susan Rice’s talks also are believed to involve the agenda for an expected visit to Washington by Nawaz Sharif in October 2015. Meanwhile, media reports said that during the meeting with the US NSA, PM Sharif highlighted the stalled dialogue process between Pakistan and India and reportedly handed over a report on Indian aggression along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB). Both countries also discussed efforts to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were suspended after the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar.
On August 12, Dawn reported that the United States has signalled to discontinue Coalition Support Fund (CSF) payments beyond 2015.
US unwillingness to continue the programme is a result of its changing priorities as it now appears more focused on the challenges posed by Middle Eastern terror group Daesh. CSF payments have been used to support scores of Pakistani army operations and help to keep more than 100,000 Pakistani troops in the field in northwest Pakistan.
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On July 29, according to Express Tribune, the US released $337 million to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund. Pakistan has received a total of $13 billion in CSF payments since the programme began in 2001.
The US considers Pakistan as an important ally in the US counter-terrorism strategy, the peace process in Afghanistan, and the nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Some military experts believe that the foreign military funding to Pakistan is essential to the country’s efforts to increase stability on its western border and to ensure overall stability internally. However, Pakistan has suffered major economic losses much higher than what the US economic and military assistance is offering.
On July 5, US Ambassador Richard Olson said that proxy wars in South Asia should come to an end.
Pakistan has serious concerns over the role of the Indian involvement across Pakistan and also about the role of the Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in Afghanistan due to RAW’s apparent support for insurgency in Balochistan. Pakistan has also conveyed its concerns to American officials in the past. Another major issue for Pakistan has been the sectarian proxy war being fought by Saudi Arabia and Iran in Pakistan.
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On June 20, US State Department in its annual report on terrorism listed Pakistan as a critical counter-terrorism partner.
The report also highlighted that Pakistan continues to be troubled with numerous violent extremist groups, many of which target Pakistani government or members of rival religious sects. In a broader assessment of the region, the report has classified South Asia as “a front line in the battle against terrorism”.
On June 2, the third round of the Pak-US Strategic dialogue was held in Washington. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad during the dialogue said “Pakistan will not sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because it considers it discriminatory”.
In a related development on June 3, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary said “Pakistan wants to be further integrated into the non-proliferation mainstream, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)”. Despite India’s blatant refusal to sign the NPT, the US entered into a nuclear deal with India and is facilitating India’s membership into the NSG. Pakistan has stressed the need for access to peaceful nuclear technology as a socioeconomic imperative. Pakistan maintains that the NPT is inherently discriminatory and the treaty does not support complete nuclear disarmament. Many observers in Pakistan also believe that Pakistan’s position on the NPT is based on its national interest and national security in the geo political context of the region in which Pakistan is situated. However Pakistan has always shown a strong commitment towards global non-proliferation regime. Pakistan has followed a policy of nuclear restraint and also placed its nuclear power plants under IAEA safeguards.
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On May 10, US investigative journalist, Seymour Hersch wrote in the London Review of Books that the killing of Bin Laden was not an all-American affair and the Pakistanis were well aware of the operation and that they’d known his whereabouts since 2006.
On May 11, in a related development the White House rejected a report by Seymour Hersch which claimed that the official US version of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was a cover up. Seymour Hersch, has disputed the Obama administration’s account of the death of the AlQaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, in Pakistan four years ago. However, his version of events has been explicitly rejected by the White House. Reacting to the report, former Secretary of Defence and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta said “I can assure you bin Laden was not in the custody of Pakistan.” Panetta is one of several US officials who have denied the credibility of the report, including White House National Security spokesman Ned Price and White House spokesman Josh Earnest. The raid by the US Seals in 2011 in Abbottabad killing Osama bin Laden prompted a wave of confusion. The relations between the US and Pakistan reached their lowest point after the US raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s Abbottabad hideout.
On May 7, US handed over 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armoured personnel carriers to Pakistan.
The United States is withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan and has offered some of the weapons it is leaving behind to its allies in the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. Technically, these weapons are classified as “Excessive Defence Articles”, i.e. equipment used by the US forces, which can be supplied to allied nations at withdrawal instead of shipping them back to the United States. The weapons also include F-16 armaments including 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.
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On April 26, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Barack Obama secretly exempted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from carrying out adequate intelligence-gathering missions in Pakistan before conducting drone strikes in the country.
Pakistan has always opposed US drones strikes in Pakistan and maintains that it is a continued violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. The US drone programme has stirred deep anger inside Pakistan. Earlier in 2013, United Nations revealed in a report that drone strikes had killed scores of innocent civilians in the tribal belt of Pakistan.
On April 16, former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said, “Pakistan probably didn’t know about Osama bin Laden as there is no evidence to suggest there was a link”.
The former ambassador said “it was a terrible year if you happen to be an ambassador to Pakistan”. The unilateral raid by the US seals in a compound located in Abbottabad killing Osama bin Laden left many people confused and evoked a serious reaction from the Pakistani MPs on the unilateral action, which constituted a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The relations between the US and Pakistan reached their lowest point after the US raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s Abbottabad hideout.
On April 8, the US State Department approved Pakistan’s request for a billion dollars worth of military hardware and equipment, identifying Pakistan as a country of vital importance for US foreign policy and national interests.
The US State Department in a statement also said that the latest sale of military equipment to Pakistan would enhance Islamabad’s counter-terrorism abilities. Many defence analysts believe that the US defence companies are engaged in competition with Russia and China to sell weapons to Pakistan, complicated by the need to avoid upsetting neighbour India and its even larger arms’ market. However Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson said that Pakistan sought to procure US military equipment to meet critical gaps in its defence capabilities and the proposed equipment would also help Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.
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On March 10, according to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Daniel Feldman met with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi and appreciated Pakistan’s effort for restoring peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan is seen as a key player for restoring peace in the region and bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table.
In early February, 2015, US State Department also praised Pakistan’s important role in the reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan’s military spokesperson has also said that Pakistan’s Army remains hopeful and see positive signs in Afghan peace process. Previous efforts to hold peace talks have failed. However many defence experts argue that the current security environment can provide the best opportunity for negotiations as Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have seen an improvement since the new government of President Ghani pledged cooperation with Pakistan. Ghani’s new government in Afghanistan has sought to normalise relations with Pakistan to reduce mistrust and suspicions which intensified during the previous government of Hamid Karzai.
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On February 25, US Secretary of State John Kerry presented budget document before the Congress which stated that Pakistan is a key partner with the United States on counter terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation goals. The document also identifies Pakistan as a partner in achieving stability and economic development in South Asia.
The assistance for Pakistan proposed in the State Department’s budget for year 2016 is $ 900 million out of which $500 million is for combating terrorism. Earlier on February 04, 2015, the Obama Administration had requested the Congress to provide more than $1 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan. US in recent meetings with Pakistan’s top officials has acknowledged Pakistan’s effort in combating terrorism while some US Congressman have opposed granting of aid to Pakistan and demanded the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi as a conditionality. However US Secretary of State John Kerry while briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee opposed the linking of aid with the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi.
On February 25, Pakistan’s top spy chief Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, while on his visit to US, held a series of meetings with senior US security officials. Defence analysts in Pakistan are of the view that the visit is important and mainly focused on Pakistan’s effort to facilitate reconciliation process between the Taliban and Afghan government.
Earlier Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had also visited the US for strategic dialogue with US top military and political leadership. United States and Pakistan have stepped up their efforts on countering terrorism and intelligence sharing. · On February 24, US State Department said that Pakistan has an important role in Afghan peace talks. Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “in terms of the role of Pakistan, we have long encouraged Pakistan to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s reconciliation efforts. We of course remain in support and in contact with President Ghani on these matters as well as certainly countries like Pakistan who have a stake in the outcome.” Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah earlier on February 23, 2015, said that the Afghan government will soon begin talks with the Taliban. However, US reiterated its position that they have not initiated any talks with the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani has also acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in the reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan and Afghanistan have intensified their cooperation and the new government in Afghanistan has been trying to normalise relations with Pakistan. Both countries have pledged to end suspicions and mistrust which intensified during the previous government of Hamid Karzai. China on the other side has also pledged its support in Afghan reconciliation process. China is concerned about its Xinjiang region where China is facing an insurgent movement by the Uighur separatists.
On February 12, US President Barack Obama held phone talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan conveyed its concerns to the United States that it would not accept India as a permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said India cannot become a UNSC permanent member due to its non-compliance of all the resolutions passed by UN regarding Kashmir. Pakistan reiterated its opposition to India’s permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) membership. India does not stand eligible to become a permanent member of the UNSC as India remains in violation of its resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir and Kashmiri right to self-determination. A reformed UNSC should reflect interests of the wider UN members. Pakistan, as a part of the Uniting for Consensus group, has always advocated an effective and feasible reform of the Security Council based on consensus among the UN members.
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On January 28, according to Express Tribune, Yousaf al Salafi allegedly the Pakistan commander of Islamic State (IS) has confessed during investigations that he has been receiving funds through the United States.
Several Pakistani newspapers reported that al Salafi’s revelations were shared with the US Secretary of State John Kerry. During the investigations, Yousaf al Salafi revealed that he was receiving funds routed through America to run the organisation in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria. Al Salafi is a Pakistani-Syrian, who entered Pakistan through Turkey. Earlier, it was reported that he crossed into Turkey from Syria and was caught there. However, he managed to escape from Turkey and reached Pakistan to establish IS in the region.
On January 13 the US State Department declared TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah a “global terrorist”. State Department announced that it had classified the group’s nominal leader, Maulana Fazlullah, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” forbidding American transactions with him and freezing any assets of his that the United States can find.
US recognised Pakistani efforts for undertaking a very extensive, costly operation to break up the nest of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Fazlullah, nicknamed “Radio Mullah” by his admirers who followed his radio sermons, rose to prominence as the commander of the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, an organisation aiming to enforce Sharia in Pakistan He later became the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan in Swat Valley. Fazlullah was elected the commander of TTP in November 2013, following the death of former TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
On January 12 US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and assured Pakistan continued US support in counter-terrorism.
The US acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate militancy. The strategic dialogue between the two countries covered almost all facets of a bilateral relationship including trade, economic assistance, defence cooperation, energy and strategic issues. The focus however remained on efforts to combat terrorism. The talks were important because the dialogue set the tone for future cooperation between the two countries in future even as the US formally ended its 13-year-long combat mission in Afghanistan.
On January 2, according to Dawn News All Parties Conference (APC) reached a consensus on the proposed National Action Plan to combat militancy in the country in the aftermath of school massacre in Peshawar.
The meeting unanimously resolved that the 20 points enunciated in the APC resolution of December 24, 2014 including the creation of military courts would be acted upon expeditiously. Public alarm and anger at the ruthlessness of the Taliban attack in Peshawar led lawmakers to hand new powers to the military. The Parliament passed a constitutional amendment empowering military courts to try suspected militants. Legislative measures were proposed including the amendment in the Pakistan Army Act to extend its jurisdiction for speedy trials. The APC reiterated its commitment to degrading and dismantling all forms of terrorism. · On January 6, the National Assembly approved the 21st constitutional amendment and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015 which will provide constitutional cover for the speedy trail of terror suspects. The Amendment and the Pakistan Army Bill became final after going through the approval of the Senate and the signature of the President.