AFB, Fla. (March 10, 2016) —
Situated at the crossroads of Central and South Asia with a population of more
than 200 million people, Pakistan is the most populous country in the CENTCOM
area of responsibility and one of few nuclear powers in the region. According
to the U.S. State Department, the United States and Pakistan have maintained
diplomatic relations since Pakistan’s founding in 1947, but it was the events
of 9/11 that led the two nations to conduct closer coordination on security and
stability matters in the region. That cooperation continues today with U.S
security assistance to Pakistani security forces focused on strengthening
Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities while also
promoting a closer bilateral security relationship.
The team charged with overseeing U.S. security assistance to Pakistan is the
U.S. Office of the Defense Representative-Pakistan (ODR-P), a U.S. Central
Command component and part of the U.S. Embassy team in Islamabad. For nearly
two years, Air Force Lt. Gen. Anthony Rock led this team as ODR-P chief and the
senior U.S. defense representative to Pakistan. He deployed to Pakistan in July
2014 and recently relinquished his position as Chief, ODR-P to Air Force Maj. Gen.
Rick Mattson, CENTCOM’s former Director, CCJ7 Exercises and Training. Rock
visited U.S. Central Command March 10 post-deployment to update the staff here
about ODR-P’s accomplishments in Pakistan and provide his perspective about
this important regional security relationship.
In an interview, Rock said the U.S. relationship with Pakistan has grown
substantially through the program initiated by ODR-P. Along with the U.S.
Embassy country team, Rock and his staff promoted and enhanced U.S.
counterterrorism and regional security efforts by assisting and enhancing
Pakistan’s military counterinsurgency efforts. The U.S. State Department
estimates that Pakistan has captured more than 600 Al-Qaeda members and their
allies since 2001, while also fighting the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a
terrorist group with close ties to Al-Qaeda and a stated aim of overthrowing
Pakistan’s government to establish an Islamic caliphate.
Additionally, ODR-P’s efforts to enhance interpersonal relationships with key
members of Pakistan’s military helped to strengthen and perpetuate a resilient
and mutually beneficial defense partnership.
“If you look at the history of the relationship between the United States and
Pakistan in 68 years of Pakistan as a nation, you’ve seen a wide variety of
swings in our relationship,” Rock said.
Ultimately, however, the relationship has been beneficial for both nations, he
said. Pakistan has provided significant support to U.S. efforts focused on
promoting security and stability in Afghanistan, while U.S. security assistance
to Pakistan has enabled that nation in its battle against militant threats
there. According to the U.S. State Department, Pakistan is the largest partner
for U.S. International Military Education and Training funding in the world –
with the U.S. providing training to more than 2,300 Pakistan military members
since 2009. Other examples of security assistance include military staff
exchanges and joint training exercises.
Rock said the tangible result of these efforts and the relationships that have
been established is the exponential growth of the Pakistani military’s ability
to effectively function at an operational level, with the notable initiation 24
months ago of “Operation Zarb-E-Azb” (Pronounced: Zarb-ē-ahzb).
“This is an on-going operation to go after the militants that threaten their
government, that project power outside their borders, and project violence, not
just into Afghanistan but in some cases into India, within the region, and on a
global scale,” he said. “Many of the militants have been chased out of North
Waziristan and into Afghanistan...which has enabled the residual coalition
force and Afghan National Security Forces to pursue some threats that they
couldn’t reach before.”
Rock explained that Pakistan faces a continuing challenge to eradicate the
militants and extremists that create instability, insecurity and initiate
attacks on society within their own borders.
“These issues project violence and power either through facilitation or
operational direction to other units or other elements of their organizations
outside of the borders of Pakistan into neighboring countries,” Rock said.
“What I can say is that Pakistan has very publicly stated its migration or
evolution in policy, especially getting after the internal militancy and the
extremism problem within Pakistan.”
Rock said that the relationships that he and his team built during their time
in Pakistan will endure long after their redeployments.
“The foundation of success is in the personal contact and interaction cultured
in these environments,” Rock said. “The ability now for our individuals and our
societies to be connected and to remain connected through social media,
electronic email and social networking opportunities is a powerful thing. As those
[Pakistani] senior officers move forward, I’ll have the ability to stay
connected with them.”
When asked about his team’s most notable achievement over the past 20 months,
he said that as he looks back “all of the things that the ODR-P team did to enable
Pakistani success are probably the most satisfying pieces operationally.
Strategically, the ability to continue to propel the relationship forward I
think is even more important.”