First Pakistan-U.S. military meet, post-Salala incident

Even as Parliament remained preoccupied with framing new terms for engagement with the U.S., the military leadership of the two countries met on Wednesday for the first time since the November 26 NATO attack on Pakistani Army outposts along the border with Afghanistan.

That the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, James N. Mattis, and the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, John Allen, would call on the Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was announced by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). No details were provided on what transpired in the meeting.

According to ISPR, this is the first high-level meeting after the Salala incident and will focus on the enquiry into the attack and improvement in Border Coordination Procedures. Pakistan has already rejected the report of the U.S. enquiry into the incident. As against the U.S. claim of it being an accident, Pakistan has called it a deliberate attack on its sovereignty and Gen. Kayani is said to have underscored this at the meeting.

The meeting comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday on the sidelines of the just-concluded Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea.

Pakistan had refused to entertain any visits from the U.S. since the Salala incident in which 24 soldiers of the Pakistan Army were killed; straining the already stretched bilateral relationship to near break-point. In February, however, the Army resumed border coordination with ISAF and the Afghan National Army, and attended a meeting in the Border Coordination Centre at Torkham. Pakistan was represented by the Director General of Military Operations.

Meanwhile, Parliament continued to deliberate on the new terms of engagement with the U.S. while battling with the pressure from within and outside against the resumption of NATO supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan. With the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) recommending that the terms and conditions for allowing transit facilities to NATO trucks should be revisited, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council has started a series of protests across the country against the move including one on Tuesday outside Parliament.

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