WASHINGTON: A US national security team, led by Gen James Jones, is visiting Pakistan for talks on the current American strategy for defeating militants in the Pak-Afghan region.
Jones, who is President Barack Obama’s national security adviser and a retired general, begins his official meetings in Islamabad on Wednesday. He is expected to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The talks are expected to focus on the new US strategy, which is a combination of greater military pressure on the Taliban and of political moves aimed at reintegrating Taliban foot soldiers and second rank leaders. Under this strategy, US forces are scheduled to launch a major military offensive this week in southern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistani border.
The US also has set up a multi-million dollar fund with the help of the international community to encourage Taliban foot soldiers to join the political mainstream in Afghanistan.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday night, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the new strategy measured success, not in how many Taliban fighters were killed, but by how many Afghans were protected. “We have to do two things: create conditions in which (former Taliban) can have a job and provide them security to protect them and their families (from Taliban reprisals).”
But the reintegration process, Gates warned, would not end the fight. “It is still going to be a hard fight. There are some very hard days ahead.”
As part of this strategy, the US is urging Pakistan to expand its military operations to North Waziristan where the Americans believe most of the Afghan Taliban and members of the Haqqani network are hiding.