U.S. generals, Pakistan army chief meet on NATO skirmish

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 28, 2012 3:05 PM
U.S. generals, Pakistan army chief meet on NATO skirmish

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The head of U.S. Central Command and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan met Pakistan's army chief on Wednesday in the first high-level military visit since a cross-border U.S. attack last November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Their talks, announced by the Pakistani military, took place a day after U.S. President Barack Obama met Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Seoul. He expressed hope that Pakistan's review of strained ties with Washington would respect U.S. security needs.

The Pakistani parliament is reviewing recommendations from its national security committee on future ties with Washington.

They include a halt to U.S. drone strikes on militants in northwestern Pakistan and the possible reopening of overland supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The routes were suspended after the November 26 incident, which sparked rage across Pakistan.

Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani met on Wednesday with CentCom head General James Mattis and NATO Afghanistan commander General John Allen, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said. Little declined to give details of the meeting.

U.S. officials would like Pakistan to reopen its border crossings with Afghanistan. Since the closure, NATO has had to use the costlier northern distribution route to ship supplies.

"We are hopeful that the ground supply routes will open in the near future. They are important to our effort in Afghanistan," Little said.

The Pakistani military said in a statement before the session that Kayani, Mattis and Allen would focus their discussions on the investigations into the November 26 incident.

"The meeting will also look at border security and coordination measures and how to improve them," a senior Pakistani military official told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

The official provided no further details on the meeting at Pakistani army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Pakistan's cooperation is considered crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan before most foreign combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014. Pakistan has strong traditional links with the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups.

(Reporting by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Ron Popeski and Todd Eastham)