America’s top military leaders today told the country’s lawmakers that Pakistan is carrying “extraordinary military campaign” against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but still it has a long way to go in war against terrorism.
Appearing before Defence sub-committee of the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told lawmakers that this has been possible because of the series of dialogue being carried out between US and Pak leaders in the last two years.
“It has really been extraordinary, in my view, seeing what Pakistan has done over the last, really, more than a year, in terms of becoming engaged, in terms of their operations, in terms of understanding that they now face an existential threat in this area of people who want to destabilise that government and overthrow the government of Pakistan and replace it with an Islamic, fundamentalist, radical regime,” Mr. Gates said.
Noting that Pakistani leadership understands this, Mr. Gates said that their troops have paid a heavy price for these operations.
“They have suffered thousands of casualties in recent years, in taking on these guys. But the Pakistanis, in my view, in the last months, not only have become much more aggressive and active on their side of the border; there is a developing partnership or relationship with General McChrystal, in terms of coordinating what’s going on both sides of that border that I think represents a hugely salutary development,” Gates said.
Mullen told US lawmakers that Pakistan still considers India as a priority for them and despite this they have moved troops from India’s border to its western border along Afghanistan.
“I would only add that the Pak military has worked hard, first of all, to get the support of the Pakistani people and that was very low a couple of years ago, and now it is exceptionally high. By most counts, they’ve taken on nine separate campaigns over the last 12 to 18 months, most recently through South Waziristan and Swat,” he said.
The US-Pak Strategic Dialogue, he said, is a huge step forward in terms of strengthening partnership. “It is a partnership. (Pak Army Chief) General (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani has moved troops from east to west; he has trained his people in counterinsurgency; he’s had a huge impact where they have fought,” Mullen said.
“He has limits. He’s still got an eastern front. They’re very focused on India. Some of us may not think that’s a priority; I assure you they do in Pakistan. And they get to choose. It’s their country. So they’ve changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Still an awful long way to go, and it is an existential threat, and they recognise that,” Mullen said.