MOSCOW, November 16 (Sputnik) — Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff Raheel Sharif has begun his official week-long US visit Sunday to discuss a wide range of defence and security matters with his American counterparts.
Described as “Pakistan’s most powerful man” by the Times of India, Gen. Sharif (not to be confused with the nation’s acting PM) is arriving in the United States as the relationships between Washington and the Middle Eastern nuclear-armed Islamic Republic are strengthening. Mutual relations were severely undermined some three years ago when Osama Bin Laden was suddenly eliminated on the Islamabad-controlled territory by US Navy Seals.
Security issues in Afghanistan are likely to dominate the upcoming discussions between Gen. Sharif and senior US military personnel, including the highest-ranking American soldier Gen. Martin Dempsey and the leaders of the Central Command. However, there are several new discourses Gen. Sharif is bringing to Washington.
The most important one is Pakistan’s struggle with Islamic State (IS) infiltrating the country. Pakistan has been fighting Al-Qaeda and, the Taliban, who are active in the distant mountainous regions of the Islamic Republic, for years now. Pakistan has a long story of being America’s ally, helping Washington counter its major political rivals. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the early stages of War on Terror Pakistan provided operational infrastructure and logistics. Now, Pakistan may allow American military supplies and economic aid to be let into the country in return for the assistance against Islamic State.
Islamic State is becoming more influential within Pakistan, as the nation’s erratic defence policies prompted the rise of several Islamic militias, non-accountable to the government, like the Haqqani network.
"The danger here is that while playing this game Pakistan will eventually end up making ISIS stronger to its own detriment," said a former Pakistani ambassador to the US as quoted by the Times of India.
Another issue is Islamabad’s relations with Afghanistan. The latter’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, met with Sharif Friday, an indication of the improving relations between the two nations.
“Both sides are aware of this historical moment and are taking steps to seize this moment,” U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard G. Olson said as quoted by the Washington Post.
Pakistan is now committed to the counterterrorism activities more than ever before as the government in Islamabad feels the terrorists are a threat to its own existence.
“I think [the US military leaders] will feel quite at home with him, because his style is more the American style,” a former Pakistani secret service employee Javed Ashraf Qazi said of Sharif as quoted by the Washington Post. “But actions speak louder than words, and, so far, he is giving them action.”