WASHINGTON: The US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Martin Dempsey has said that the United States cannot defeat Al Qaeda without Pakistan’s support and emphasized the need to help Pakistan stabilize as instability in this key South Asian state would hurt the entire region.
“Our strategic and national security goals remain to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and to prevent the return of safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Gen Dempsey said in a written statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday afternoon.
“This would not be possible without Pakistani support,” he said.
“We also have an interest in a stable Pakistan and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology,” Gen Dempsey said.
Gen Dempsey said that the two countries were now moving towards a more focused and issue-related relationship instead of a more generalised friendship they had in the recent past.
“On the security front, we have a more limited relationship than in the past, but I believe it is a pragmatic and constructive approach,” he said.
Gen Dempsey, who has been re-nominated by President Barack Obama for the same post, was responding to a series of questions from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on US-Pakistan relations.
In his written response, the general acknowledged that Pakistan’s cooperation on counter-terrorism had not always met US expectations. Although since 2009 Pakistan has undertaken counter-insurgency operations against extremist organisations in the northwest, including Swat, North and South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajaur, those operations had produced “mixed results”, he said. The United States, however, had helped Pakistan carry out those operations by providing funds and other resources, he added.
“Security assistance, Coalition Support Fund reimbursements and cross-border coordination with Isaf and Afghan forces have helped enable these operations,” he said. “It is in our interest that Pakistan continues this campaign as effectively and comprehensively as possible.”
Gen Dempsey told the lawmakers that while recent elections had further strengthened democracy in Pakistan, the US defence establishment must maintain its ties with the Pakistani military.
“Our engagements, and especially our security assistance programmes, are essential for effective military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. The US military chief informed the panel that he had engaged productively with Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani, many times in the past, and the Office of the Defence Representative in Islamabad played an important role in building and sustaining military-military ties at lower levels.
“These relationships allow us to engage Pakistan in clearly defined areas of shared concern such as maintaining regional stability, curbing violent extremism, and countering the threat of improvised explosive devices,” he said.
Gen Dempsey told the lawmakers that if reconfirmed he would continue “a frank and respectful dialogue” with Pakistan about “our shared interests” in countering extremism and promoting regional stability.
“Security cooperation cannot succeed without the buy-in of Pakistani leadership and continued support of the US Congress,” he said.
The US general warned that there would be no American troops in Afghanistan post-2014 without a signed Bilateral Security Agreement but he also said he was confident it would be signed in time.