WASHINGTON - Pakistan remains an important regional partner and continued American support for the country is necessary to maintain military-to-military relationship on solid footing, Commander of the US Central Command underscored at a Congressional hearing.General James N Mattis was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that reviewed the US Administration’s Defence Authorisation Request for Fiscal Year 2014. He told the panel, chaired by Senator Car Levin, that the US-Pakistan relationship in 2012 began at a low point but has improved steadily since July 2012, when Pakistan reopened its supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan.“Pakistan maintained the closure of the US/ISAF ground lines of communication (GLOC) to Afghanistan in response to the tragic November 2011 incident at Salala. The relationship has steadily improved since the GLOC reopened in July 2012 when we resumed security cooperation with Pakistan’s Army and concluded an agreement that permits two-way flow on the GLOC,” Mattis observed in the opening statement.The General, whose area of command includes the Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan also referred to the conclusion of a tripartite US-Pakistan-Afghanistan agreement to “facilitate better coordination and complementary operations on both sides of the border that disrupt the enemies freedom of movement and help prevent another fratricide incident.”“The United States has a vested interest in Pakistan’s sustainability as a nation and despite challenges in the US-Pakistan relationship, they are an important regional partner that has sacrificed greatly in the war on terror. They must play a constructive role if Afghanistan is to achieve long-term stability,” he noted.Mattis acknowledged that Pakistan Army has gradually started taking control of the Tribal Areas in one of the most difficult terrains, along the Afghan border.He said, “it is the most difficult terrain I’ve ever operated in along that border region. So this is not easy. The enemy is well-dug in. They’re hard to get at. Pakistan military is moving against them. And we’ll just have to try and keep the collaboration along the border continuing on the trajectory it’s on now if we’re going to have success.” “We resumed strategic-level talks and committed to implement a framework for defense cooperation that promotes peace and stability within the region, based on areas of converging interests and principles of mutual respect and transparency. Subsequently, we have held operational level talks, including through the recent Defence Resourcing Conference and Military Consultative Committee, which focused on synchronisation of our efforts to build Pakistan’s capabilities to achieve our common objectives.”

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 07-Mar-2013 here.