James Mattis meets Kayani, discusses cooperation

Islamabad: Amid growing speculation about a military campaign against militants in lawless North Waziristan, a top US Commander has held talks with Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on steps to improve cooperation along the Pak-Afghan border.

Gen James Mattis, Commander of the US Central Command, left Islamabad this morning after a series of meetings with senior Pakistani commanders and officials, including Kayani and Defence Secretary Lt Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik.

During his meetings with senior Pakistani military officials, Mattis discussed a "wide range of common security issues, (including) militant network activities and measures to improve cross-border cooperation," said a statement issued by the US embassy.

Mattis "reaffirmed the importance of the US-Pakistani security relationship – not only to ongoing operations in Afghanistan but also to regional stability," the statement said.

The US and Pakistani military officials agreed to "meet periodically to further common objectives on cross-border cooperation and regional security," it said without giving details.

 The US Commander also acknowledged sacrifices made by the Pakistani military in its fight against extremists and offered condolences for the nearly 5,000 Pakistani military personnel who have died in this campaign.

Senior US officials, including Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, have spoken in recent days about Pakistan launching a fresh military campaign against the Taliban in North Waziristan tribal agency.

However, there are no indications that the campaign will target the Haqqani network, which has close ties to the Pakistani security establishment and has been blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

Kayani, in his speech on Pakistan`s Independence Day on Tuesday, gave indications of a fresh drive against militants. He said any doubts about waging the war against terrorism could put Pakistan at risk of a civil war.