Thursday, 29 March 2012

Army Chief Meets US Commanders

Pakistan's army chief will hold his first meeting with senior U.S. commanders on Wednesday to discuss American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two Afghan border posts last year.

The attack, which the U.S. has said was an accident and Pakistan claimed was deliberate, severely strained the already troubled relations between the two allies. Both sides have said they want to repair ties and move forward, but have made little progress.

Pakistan retaliated for the November airstrikes by kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones and closing its border to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. is eager to get the supplies moving again because it has had to spend much more money shipping goods by an alternative route that runs through Central Asia. The supply line through Pakistan will also be key to trucking out equipment as the U.S. seeks to withdraw most of its combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

A workable relationship is also important because Pakistan is seen as key to striking a peace agreement with the Taliban that would allow U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan without the country descending into further chaos.

Pakistan would also benefit from patching up relations because U.S. assistance has helped keep its struggling economy afloat. The U.S. has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid since 2001 to enlist its support in fighting Islamist militants, but the relationship has been plagued by mistrust.

All of these issues will likely be discussed when Pakistani army chief Gen. Pervez Kayani meets with the top U.S. commander in the region, Gen. James Mattis, and the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen.

The meeting will be held at army headquarters in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital, Islamabad, the army said in a statement.
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