WASHINGTON - Commander of US CENTCOM, General James Mattis has said that Pakistan Army has thrown the Taliban back in the mountains, it continues to fight them and safe havens in some of the areas exist because the Pakistan army is stretched.
“Pakistan Army has thrown the Taliban back up into the mountains. They continue to fight. They fought this week. They continue to take casualties in this fight. And the havens that are there in some of those areas exist because the Pakistan Army is stretched,” he stressed while speaking at the hearing of the House Armed Services Committee here.
The statement by General James Mattis came a few days after he met Pakistan’s newly appointed Ambassador Sherry Rehman. General Mattis said the US has a problematic relationship with Pakistan at times but that does not prevent them from working together. There is a lot of common ground that both the countries use and operate together against the enemy, he added.
“We don't have 100 percent common ground about it, but it is not a
showstopper,” Mattis remarked.
He said if he had been appearing before this committee two and a half years ago, he would have been asked that the Taliban were moving against Islamabad and were only 60 miles away in Swat Valley. He said today the Pakistan Army has thrown them back into the mountains.
As for the current state of relations, the CENTCOM commander said he would be flying back to the region in a couple of weeks but pointed out that the Pakistani Parliament has under consideration an investigation into what had happened at Salala Checkpost in late November. He said a determination is being made by the Parliament of what sort of relationship they want with US in the future.
General James Mattis said Pak-US relationship is a challenging but crucial and prone to recriminations on both sides. However he said the bottom line is that this is a critical relationship, as complicated as it is and they have just come out in support of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
He referred to Prime Minister Gilani’s public statement and said he thinks that they are on track to start recovering some of the ground lost under some of these incidents that have occurred.
Replying to a question by Rep Joe Courtney regarding presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, General Mattis said he had looked at the evidence and he does not believe that anyone in authority in Pakistan was aware that Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. He said he was well aware that nobody was in the knowledge of OBL’s presence in Abbottabad.
He expressed hope that the two countries would have to sustain a workable relationship along the border. He said a collaboration was going on, though not complete and at the level the US wants. There are disagreements on some aspects of who's the enemy and who is not, and over years some of this has shifted below both of our feet but the threat that the enemy presents is a threat to Pakistan as much as it is to Afghanistan, CENTCOM commander said.
He conceded before the committee that the Pakistan military has taken a lot of casualties, probably lost more people in this war than NATO combined has lost. He said they continue to search for the common ground as they fight in many cases in a collaborative.
General James Mattis said he could not have gone to Southern Afghanistan without Pakistani support in 2001. He said both the sides have to overcome some of the recriminations that have characterized the relationship. He expressed the hope that in the long term, both the countries would find more common ground that they can work from.
Rep Adam Smith said the relationship between the two countries is very problematic but the US needs to try to maintain whatever relationship it could have with Pakistan
“We cannot simply walk away from Pakistan and we need to find a way to make that relationship work,” he said.
source: PakistanToday news paper