Pakistan Army Chief Optimistic on Defeating Insurgents
Pakistan’s Army Commander says his forces have “broken the back” of the insurgents and he hoped that soon that what he described as the war on terror would be won following hardships and sacrifices. His statements on Saturday come as the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is strained over how to proceed in anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking at this years graduation ceremony at the Pakistani Military Academy, General Ashfaq Kayani said he believed the insurgents and extremists in Pakistan, linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida, would soon be defeated.
“In the war against terrorism, our officers and soldiers have made great sacrifices and have achieved tremendous success… the terrorist backbone has been broken and inshallah [God willing] we will soon prevail,” he said.
The Pakistani army chief’s words come amid continued difficulty between Pakistan’s leadership and the U.S. over how to proceed in the war effort.
In recent weeks rounds of shuttle diplomacy have done little to defuse the situation despite a number of trips by both sides to the other partner’s capitols.
Earlier this week the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, traveled to Islamabad to conduct high level meetings with Pakistani officials, including General Kayani.
While here he conducted an interview with a local television network in which he said the U.S. had intelligence that certain members of the Pakistani military, along with the country’s intelligence agency, the ISI, had ties to extremists groups such as the Haqqani Network- a group with strong ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
“The ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network,” said Adm. Mullen. “That doesn’t mean everybody in the ISI, but it’s there. I also have an understanding that the ISI and Pakmil [Pakistan military] exist to protect their own citizens. And there’s a way, there’s a way that they have done that [had relations with the Haqqani group] for a long period of time. I believe over time that’s got to change.”
That statement further angered the establishment here. Many disputed the claim as “negative U.S. propaganda.”
The ties between the two countries have been strained for months following the fatal shooting of two Pakistani men by CIA contractor Raymond Davis.
On the U.S. side, there is frustration that the Pakistanis are perceived not to be doing enough to rein in extremists or stop cross-border traffic by militants from Afghanistan. Many groups fighting against U.S. and NATO forces find safe haven in the lawless frontier between the two countries.
In order to strike at those safe havens the U.S. often uses unmanned drones and many Pakistanis are furious about this, as they see it as a breach of their sovereignty.
Just after Admiral Mullen’s visit this week a drone strike struck a meeting in North Waziristan reportedly killing 26. The dead included militants but also reportedly some women and children.
Some political activists here say they will begin blocking the vital NATO supply line into Afghanistan if the drone attacks are not stopped.