Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pakistani Army Commander Briefs NATO Commanders

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

Pakistan's military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, briefed NATO's top officers on Tuesday about the fighting in northwestern Pakistan, where the army is conducting a major offensive against Taliban militants, officials said.

Officials discussed plans to deepen ties between NATO and Pakistan's armed forces by providing training for Pakistani officers in NATO training centers, and reviewed the status of NATO's main supply route to landlocked Afghanistan, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

"Gen. Kayani gave his assessment of the current situation there and Pakistan's plans for future actions," Appathurai said.

He did not elaborate on what those plans were, and Kayani did not speak to journalists. The United States has been pushing for greater coordination of military and civilian efforts on both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border.

NATO has nearly 60,000 troops in neighboring Afghanistan — the U.S. has another 10,000 soldiers under a separate command — and alliance military commanders have frequently called on Pakistan to stamp out cross-border infiltration by militants.

The issue has gained added urgency since President Barack Obama announced that he would deploy 21,000 more American reinforcements to Afghanistan.

Pakistan's army is engaged in large-scale combat in the Swat valley and neighboring districts, in response to attempts by militants to solidify their hold on the region. The military says more than 1,000 insurgents have so far been killed in the fighting which has forced nearly 1.5 million people to flee from the area.

Kayani last visited NATO in November, when he urged alliance commanders to focus on winning the population's backing in those areas to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida militants from using them as safe havens.

On Tuesday, he met with NATO's Military Committee, which serves as a link between NATO's military and political sides, and provides advice on strategy. Its head, Italian Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, is NATO's top soldier.

He also held talks with Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Appathurai said.

Convoys carrying logistic supplies on the overland route from the port of Karachi through the Khyber Pass and on to Kabul have come under repeated attack by insurgents in Pakistan, prompting alliance members to seek alternate transport links through Russia and the Central Asian nations.

Kayani arrived in Brussels from a one-day visit on Monday to Paris, where he met President Nicolas Sarkozy and top French government and military officials.

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