WASHINGTON, June 29 : In a marked tone down from his recent comments about Pakistan’s anti-terror performance , Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Friday said Pakistan is a victim of terror and that both sides are working in good faith to try to resolve the issue over restoration of supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan.
“There continue to be discussions in this area. We continue to have lines of communication open with Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the GLOCs. The good news is that there continue to be those discussions. There are still some tough issues to try to resolve,” he said at a Pentagon news briefing.
“But I think the important thing right now is that that both sides, in good faith, keep working to see if we can resolve this,” he added, appearing jointly with Gen Martin Dempsey, Chairman Joint Chiefs Staff.
Panetta’s remarks follow a joint statement by Pakistan military and Afghanistan-based International Security Assistance Fore , which Friday reported a constructive outcome of the meeting between ISAF commander (American) General John Allen called on Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayan earlier this week. The two sides agreed to improve Pak-Afghan border security and coordination.
The two sides expressed the willingness to achieve the joint targets set in the trilateral military conference, held last month.
They further discussed the mutual progress made to eliminate terrorism, combat extremism and ensuring that the territory of both Pakistan and Afghanistan are not used as safe havens to launch cross-border attacks.
“This visit helped advance our efforts to achieve the regional stability. Additionally, the meeting provided us perfect opportunity to refocus our attention on our continuing efforts to eliminate the corrosive effects of extremists operating on both sides of the border” Allen was quoted as saying in an ISPR news release.
The positive tone by both sides Friday indicated the US and Pakistan are finally inching toward progress on some of the contentious issues, after months of statement in the bilateral relationship, considered key to a successful outcome of the Afghan conflict.
Meanwhile, Pakistani diplomats in Washington, led by Ambassador Sherry Rehman, have been reaching out to the US Congress to convey Pakistan’s perspective and listen to American lawmakers’ views on some of the divisive issues. Islamabad has asked Washington to apologize over Salala border posts airstrikes on November 26,2011, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, to pave the way for reopening its key land routes that transport essential NATO supplies into landlocked Afghanistan.
At the Pentagon briefing, Panetta said the US and Pakistan should work together to curb cross-border militancy.
“After all, they too have been the a victim of terrorism. They lost 17 Pakistanis on a patrol to TTP. And so everyday they too are the victims of terrorism. So we have a common enemy. It would make sense if we could work together to confront that common enemy,” remarked Panetta, who a few weeks ago said in Kabul that US was reaching limits of its patience with Pakistan’s lack of action against the Haqqani network, which targets American forces deployed in Afghanistan.
Sources: MGCT, Department of Defense
- Panetta on Pakistan: At least we’re talking (security.blogs.cnn.com)
- US senator says apology over Salala will help Pakistan ties (myglobalcommunitytoday.wordpress.com)
- Pentagon chief all but rules out apology for Pakistan (dawn.com)
- US will do whatever necessary to protect forces in Pakistan, Panetta says (foxnews.com)