ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Commander of US Central Command Gen James Mattis would continue consultations on an operation against the Haqqani network even though the visiting American General had to leave without a firm date.
Gen Mattis, who had arrived on Thursday evening, held talks with Gen Kayani and Defence Secretary Gen Asif Yasin Malik late on Thursday night. He departed on Friday morning.
Gen Mattis had arrived for the meetings on the day when an attack by heavily armed militants on a key PAF base in Kamra was foiled by Pakistani security forces.
As anticipated the discussions were predominantly about the North Waziristan operation. While the Pakistani side avoided any reference to the Haqqani network in its post-meeting statement, the US embassy’s media note clearly stated that the talks covered ‘militant network activities’ in addition to cross-border cooperation.
The US side declared the talks as ‘successful’ and said the generals “had agreed to continue to meet periodically to further common objectives on cross-border cooperation and regional security”.
There was also a hint from the Pakistani side that the talks had ended on a positive note. “Both sides expressed satisfaction over the level of cooperation between the two militaries and resolved to continue it to further improve relations between the two countries,” military’s public affairs wing, ISPR, said.
According to a western source privy to the discussion, Gen Kayani tried to convey the impression that atmosphere for launching an operation in Waziristan wasn’t yet conducive.
The source believed that he was facing pressure both from political opposition parties and some of his aides who were opposed
to initiating ‘kinetic operations’ in the militant hotbed.
The source said Gen Mattis was appreciative of the strong stance taken by Gen Kayani against extremism and terrorism in his Independence Day anniversary speech at the military academy in Kakul.
Gen Kayani was quoted by ISPR as having told Gen Mattis that the timing of the military operation would be determined by “our political and military” considerations.
But at the same time the army chief noted that “we might, if necessary, undertake operations in NWA”.
In a statement directed towards the local audience, Gen Kayani said the operation “will never be a result of any outside pressure. Pakistan’s national interest continues to be the prime consideration for any decision in this regard”.
It was evident from Gen Kayani’s remarks released by ISPR that he did not deny planning an offensive in North Waziristan.
Rather, he focused on dispelling the impression generated from reports in the western media, based on leaks, that he had reached an understanding with Isaf Commander Gen John Allen over joint operations in North Waziristan.
The ISPR went to the extent of defining and differentiating between ‘a joint operation’ and ‘coordinated action’ in the statement.
Even a reference was made to Secretary Clinton’s statement on July 3, in which she said ‘sorry’ over Salala incident. In her statement, Mrs Clinton had talked of “coordinated actions against terrorists who threaten Pakistan and the region”.