US Central Command (CENTCOM) Chief General Michael E. Kurilla has said that Pakistan’s counter-terror operations remain critical to maintaining stability and security in the region.
The CENTCOM chief, who has concluded his two-day visit to Pakistan from December 14-16, said that he was looking forward to continuing efforts with Pakistan’s new army chief General Asim Munir in combating the shared threats to regional security. “I greatly look forward to working with General Asim Munir. This is a strategic relationship that underpins security and stability across the region,” the CENTCOM chief told APP in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
General Kurilla held meetings with Pakistan’s military leadership to reaffirm security ties between the two nations. He also visited Torkham border crossing to discuss the security situation along the border with Afghanistan. He termed his visit “great” as he met General Asim Munir and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza. “I came away very impressed with the leadership of the Pakistan armed forces and their professionalism,” he said.
During the engagements in Pakistan, General Kurilla said that he was able to strengthen his previously established relationship with General Asim Munir. “Personal and face-to-face visits to Pakistan are critical to building my understanding of the opportunities and challenges for the Pakistan armed forces and to building on our security cooperation,” he said. “The objective of visit was to further the partnership and relationship that the United States and Pakistan built over the last 75 years.”
The CENTCOM chief expressed commitment to strengthening the Pak-US military-to-military ties and said, “Our relationship has long been viewed as critical to US interests and the region.”
Asked if the US still looks at Pakistan through the prism of Afghanistan, he said, “The CENTCOM views the US-Pakistan relationship through its own bilateral merits and its potential to improve stability across the region, adding that it was broad-based and important for our countries, for the region and the world.
In the wake of recent regional developments, he said the relationship must be “preserved” and stressed that it was so important for the region.
In response to a question on the US military assistance to Pakistan, he said the partnership aimed at building defence capacity. “For example, this year, the US agreed to maintain and upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. Maintaining and upgrading this fleet is critical to Pakistan’s air power,” he said.
General Kurilla also mentioned the grant assistance to Pakistan for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme, which he said was “beneficial to both militaries”.
The IMET’s professional military education, operational and technical courses strengthen Pakistan’s counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities, and the skills courses improve institutional capacity and resource management, he said, adding that the U.S. would seek to continue and even increase opportunities for the IMET programme.
The CENTCOM chief also outlined the US support to Pakistan through numerous development and assistance projects in the areas of health, agriculture, education, entrepreneurship and energy. “These are all important components of the broader US-Pakistan bilateral relationship,” he emphasized.
On recent flash floods in Pakistan, he said the US provided over $97 million in assistance while its troops delivered supplies to the government. The US is actively assessing the situation to determine additional needs, he said.
Meanwhile, amid the ongoing uptick in terrorist violence perpetrated by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the top US military commander said that Washington is concerned at the threat posed by the TTP to Pakistan’s security.
“We are concerned by the threats posed by Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan to Pakistani security and stability. During my visit to the GHQ, we discussed opportunities to address this threat,” General Kurilla told a publication in an interview.
The CENTCOM chief’s visit came at a time when border tensions have been escalating between Pakistan and Afghanistan following deadly skirmishes on the Chaman-Spin Boldak border. General Kurilla also dwelt on the situation in Afghanistan, underlining the fact that Pakistan had much to gain from a “peaceful and stable Afghanistan.”