ISLAMABAD: The top US military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, reiterated yesterday a US commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty after a flurry of US strikes on militants in Pakistan strained relations between the allies. Mullen said this month he was not convinced Western forces were winning in Afghanistan and he was “looking at a new, more comprehensive strategy” that would cover both sides of the border, including Pakistan’s tribal areas.
US officials say Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked fighters use ethnic Pashtun tribal regions on the Pakistani side of the border as a springboard for attacks into Afghanistan. A new government in nuclear-armed Pakistan has promised support for the US-led campaign against Islamist militancy even though the campaign is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis.
But Islamabad objects to cross-border strikes and protested against a bloody helicopter-borne ground assault by US commandos in South Waziristan this month. There have been five US missile strikes this month, killing militants and civilians.
In talks with army commander Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Mullen expressed appreciation for the positive role Pakistan was playing in the war on terror and pledged US support, the US Embassy said. “Adm. Mullen reiterated the US commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and to develop further US-Pakistani cooperation and coordination,” the embassy said in a statement.
Kayani lodged a protest with the US military commander and said there is not agreement or understanding between two countries which allows US to carry out attacks inside Pakistani boundary. Both military chiefs discussed the issues related to the war on terror and Pak-Afghan borders. Besides this, they discussed recent statements issued by the two sides regarding US attacks inside Pakistan’s territory.
Kayani made it clear that it was the sole authority of Pakistan Army to launch attack inside its territorial boundaries. Kayani further said Angoor Adda-like incidents would affect the ongoing cooperation between US and Pakistan.
The tension with the United States compounded worry on Pakistan’s financial markets. Dealers said the rupee weakened to a new low of 77.20/30, partly because of the row with the United States, a major source of financial help for Pakistan as it struggles with economic problems, but it firmed slightly before the close.
Army commander Kayani said last week Pakistan’s territory would be defended at all cost and a military spokesman said on Tuesday aggression across the border would be confronted.
Pakistan, which is battling Al-Qaeda and Taleban militants in the northwest, says US strikes could spark an uprising among its Pashtun minority along the border. US President George W. Bush approved the US commando assault in South Waziristan on Sept. 3 without Islamabad’s permission as part of a presidential order on covert operations, officials and sources familiar with the matter said.
But officials and analysts in Washington said the Bush administration was unlikely to use commando raids as a common tactic against militant havens in Pakistan because of the high-stake risks to US policy in the region.
Courtesy Arab News