Pak counter-terror operations critical to region’s stability: Gen Kurilla

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Concerned at TTP threat to Pakistan

The US Central Command chief, General Michael E. Kurilla, has said that Pakistan’s counter-terror operations remain critical to maintaining stability and security in the region.

The CENTCOM chief, who concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan from December 14-16, said he looked forward to continuing efforts with Pakistan’s new army chief General Asim Munir in combating the shared threats to regional security.

“I greatly look forward to working with General Asim Munir. This is a strategic relationship that underpins security and stability across the region,” he said in an exclusive interview.

The CENTCOM chief termed his visit “great” as he met General Asim Munir and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman General Sahir Shamshad Mirza. “I came away very impressed with the leadership of the Pakistan armed forces and their professionalism,” he said. “We discussed opportunities to address key mutual defence interests.”

The top US military commander said that the United States is concerned at the threat posed by the TTP to Pakistan’s security. During the engagements in Pakistan, General Kurilla said, he was able to strengthen his previously established relationship with General Asim Munir.

“Personal and face-to-face visits to Pakistan are critical to building my understanding of the opportunities and challenges for the Pakistan armed forces and to building on our security cooperation,” he said. “The objective of visit was to further the partnership and relationship that the United States and Pakistan built over the last 75 years.”

General Kurilla expressed commitment to strengthening the Pak-U.S. military-to-military ties and said, “Our relationship has long been viewed as critical to U.S. interests and the region.”

Asked if the U.S. still looks at Pakistan through the prism of Afghanistan, he said, “The CENTCOM views the US-Pakistan relationship through its own bilateral merits and its potential to improve stability across the region.”

“It is broad-based and important for our countries, for region and the world,” he said. In the wake of recent regional developments, he said the relationship must be “preserved”‘. “It is so important for the region,” he stressed. In response to a question on the U.S. military assistance to Pakistan, he said the partnership aimed at building defence capacity.

“For example, this year, the U.S. agreed to maintain and upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. Maintaining and upgrading this fleet is critical to Pakistan’s air power,” he said.

General Kurilla also mentioned the grant assistance to Pakistan for the International Military Education and Training programme, which he said was “beneficial to both militaries”.

The IMET’s professional military education, operational and technical courses strengthen Pakistan’s counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities, and the skills courses improve institutional capacity and resource management, he said. He said the US would seek to continue and even increase opportunities for the IMET programme.

The CENTCOM chief also outlined the U.S. support to Pakistan through numerous development and assistance projects in areas of health, agriculture, education, entrepreneurship, and energy. “These are all important components of the broader U.S-Pakistan bilateral relationship,” he emphasized.—APP