US CENTCOM commander meets Pakistan’s army chief ‘to strengthen regional ties’

General Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), engaged in discussions with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Asim Munir, as stated by the Pakistani military on Monday. The meeting centered on various matters of mutual interest, with a particular focus on the regional security situation.

The meeting took place amid Pakistan grappling with a surge in militant attacks in its northwestern and southwestern regions, adjacent to Afghanistan. These attacks have notably increased since the Pakistani Taliban terminated their delicate truce with the government in Islamabad last November.

During the talks, both military leaders addressed mutual interests and explored avenues to enhance defense cooperation, while also paying close attention to the current regional security climate. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Pakistan’s military media wing, issued a statement confirming the meeting.

“In pursuit of further strengthening bilateral relations, both sides reiterated their commitment to cooperation in all fields,” read the ISPR statement.

Last week, Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special representative to Afghanistan, traveled to Kabul and voiced concerns about the upswing in militant attacks with Taliban officials, as validated by a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson.

The recent meeting between General Kurilla and General Munir took place in the aftermath of a militant attack on a military installation in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, which resulted in the tragic loss of nine soldiers. Following the attack, Pakistan expressed concern about the presence of militant “safe havens” in Afghanistan and urged Kabul not to permit the use of its territory for attacks within Pakistan.

Addressing the matter, the US State Department asserted its independent capability to conduct operations against militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, emphasizing that they are not solely dependent on the Taliban’s assurances. The statement was in response to questions concerning recent attacks in Pakistan that originated from militant hideouts in Afghanistan.

“We will hold them to their commitments. As previously stated, we retain the capability to conduct our own operations in the region, ensuring adherence to commitments made by the Taliban, regardless of their ability or willingness to uphold them,” stated State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Regarding Pakistani Taliban sanctuaries, Islamabad has consistently raised concerns with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the response from the Taliban has been tepid, with Afghanistan denying the existence of any militant sanctuaries on its soil.