ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (March 29, 2012) — There may be more bumps in the road, but the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Pakistan is on the road to recovery, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey today.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters traveling with him that he had received the “CliffsNotes” version of the meeting between the U.S. Central Command commander, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, and Pakistani Army Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani in Islamabad yesterday.
This was the first time since the Nov. 26 incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers that the leaders were in the same room, Dempsey said.
While the military-to-military relationship may be on its way to recovery, that does not mean that brightness and light is breaking out between the two allies, Dempsey said.
“Military personnel establish contacts, but they don’t make policy,” he said.
American and Pakistan officials need to categorize and prioritize issues by importance, the general said.
“There will be some things both of us want to resolve before the NATO Summit in May,” he said. One of these issues is the opening the ground lines of communication through Pakistan to Afghanistan, Dempsey said.”
It is important to remember that the Pakistani closure of the routes affect not only the U.S., but NATO countries and other contributing nations, Dempsey said.
Afghanistan is entering the fighting season, when those fighters who went to ground for the winter historically come out. The supply lines through Pakistan would make keeping all resupplied easier, the general said.
It also will help solve the physics problem the coalition faces as it begins withdrawing troops and equipment. “We’ve spent 10 solid years shipping equipment in to Afghanistan,” he said. “We are now beginning a process of flowing equipment out, and it would certainly be better to use two directions – North and South – to do it.”
Another factor complicating the U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military relationship is the decade where ties were cut. The Pressler Amendment forbade all military ties between the United States and Pakistan. At the time, government leaders believed it was fitting punishment for Pakistan developing nuclear weaponry.
“I am not an advocate of breaking contact with military-to-military relationships that we’ve taken decades to establish,” the chairman said. “We lost about 10 years of contact with our Pakistani military counterparts – they weren’t coming to our schools, they didn’t train with us, there weren’t any exercises, no military sales program, no technology transfer, no security cooperation.”
This isolated the Pakistani military the U.S., and it created a gap between the nations’ militaries. “I do believe there is a difference in the world view of the generation of Pakistan’s leaders who are more or less my peers, and the next generation,” he said. “That is having an effect.”
One program the U.S. military put in place to combat this is a vigorous liaison program. For example, at U.S. Central Command there are 64 different liaison officers working at the command, many of them from Pakistan.
“That program, plus our school exchanges is beginning to rebuild all that, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Dempsey said.