Top US commanders meet Pak Army chief

Islamabad/Washington: The US and Pakistan today resumed their high-level military contacts for the first time since a deadly cross-border NATO strike in the country`s restive tribal belt killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year. The meeting between Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the top US commander in the region, Gen.

James Mattis, and the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen took place in Islamabad, a day after President Barack Obama met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Seoul during a nuclear summit. "The focus of the meeting was to discuss the US Pakistani military relationship," Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little, told reporters in Washington.

"We are hopeful that ground supplies routes would open in the near future, which is important to our effort in Afghanistan," he said. Though this is the first visit to Islamabad by a senior US military official since November 26 incident, but there has been high level contacts between the military officials of the two countries, he said.

"We believe very strongly that the relationship with Pakistan is very important," Little said adding that these meetings are reflections of American efforts in this regard. As the Parliamentary review continues, Little said, the US is open to dialogue with Pakistan in reopening of the supply routes. Obama met Gilani on the sidelines of the nuclear summit in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday. The US President said his country and Pakistan are seeking a balanced partnership that respects Islamabad`s sovereignty "but also respects our concerns with respect to our national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past."

"It is the first high-level meeting after (the NATO air strike) and will focus on the inquiry into the incident and improvements in border coordination procedures," a Pakistani military spokesman said in Islamabad, prior to the meeting. Gilani had ordered a parliamentary review of Pakistan`s ties with the US and NATO after November`s air strike, which the American military has said was unintentional.

The Pakistani military has rejected this stand and called for action against those responsible for the attack. Pakistan closed all routes used to transport supplies to NATO and US forces in Afghanistan after the air strike and forced American personnel to vacate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province, believed to be a hub for CIA-operated drones.