Mattis to visit Pak for talks to reopen supplies

Washington: In indications of a thaw in US-Pak ties, a top US General has said he plans to travel to Pakistan in next ten days for talks to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

General James Mattis, Commander of US Central Command, said he planned to make the visit to hold talks with Pakistani military leaders. This would be the first high-level visit of a US military leader after the November 26 border incident in which 24 Pak soldiers were killed which led to closing down of supply routes.

Mattis said that though the NATO had managed to keep supplies flowing into Afghanistan, but the Americans needed the land routes open from Pakistan to carry out withdrawl of forces from the embattled nation.

"We have proven that we can sustain the campaign through the Northern Distribution Network and through what we call our multimodal, which is basically part by air, part by sea, resupply of our effort there," the general told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I will fly to Pakistan in about ten days and we will reopen the discussions," Mattis said, replying "yes", when asked if he was optimistic on lifting off the blockade. US officials are confident that Pakistan will soon reopen the land routes once a Parliamentary review of the US-Pak relations is complete.

The American general said the Parliamentary review would be over before he arrives for talks in Islamabad. "I think the Parliamentary process as far as the new relationship with the United States will be reported out by that point and I think their military will be able to engage with us," he said.

"I anticipate General Kayani will then have the Parliament`s framework for how this relationship will move forward and we`ll do what two different countries do…some with shared interests and some of our interests are not shared and we`ll try to work our way forward," he said.

Pakistani army has "been waiting for the Parliamentary process to be done and that is why there has been a bit of a delay," the general said. Media reports said the Pakistan Army is expected to impose tax on NATO convoys carrying supplies to Afghanistan and moving through its territory.

Responding to questions, Mattis said even in worst days though the US was unable to talk about reopening the ground lines of communication with a lot of friction, there was a line of communication open between the two countries.

"Even in those worst days our brigadiers and our colonels and our majors were meeting as we tried to coordinate better to avoid the tragedy that happened in late November. So it`s actually been the one area where I can tell you we have not been hobbled… So it`s going better now in the effort to preclude this from happening ever again," Mattis said.