“I find it difficult to envision success in the region without cooperation of Pakistan and without an effective relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Gen. Dunford told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
Encouraged on a couple of fronts, the general believed that Pakistan also recognised the existential threat of extremism to their own security. “They also recognise that it’s not in their best interest to have anything other than a stable, secure and unified Afghanistan,” he said.
Dunford said, since August the heads of state have met four times, which is very positive. “That hasn’t happened in quite some time. With (Pakistan) Prime Minister (Nawaz) Sharif has come up with new resolve to improve the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
“The two areas that they have identified for cooperation I think are important to point out. One is to have a common definition of extremism and to cooperate on dealing with extremism.”
“And the other is to come up with a broader border management framework that would address the political issues, the economic issues as well as the security issues between the two countries,” Dunford said.
“Our role is to work on developing a constructive military-to-military relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
Referring to his meeting with the Pakistan army chief, Dunford said that he has indicated a strong resolve to improve the relationship between the Afghan security forces and the Pakistani army as have his Afghan counterparts.
“We will spend a lot of time over the next several months doing that. One of the things we want to accomplish by the end of the year is to have a constructive bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
“Heretofore over the last few years, it’s actually been trilateral. We’ve played an important facilitating role and we hope over time to work ourselves out of that role, certainly maintain effective bilateral relationships with both countries, between the US and Pakistan and US and Afghanistan, but play less of a role in the important relationship between those two countries,” Dunford said.
The commander also said Washington was very carefully watching the peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“We’re watching that very carefully. To be honest, we don’t have any insight into exactly the status of those — of those discussions. What we have seen recently is continued violence by the TTP — the Pakistani Taliban,” said Gen Dunford.
“We’ve also seen some limited military operations, particularly in the north Waziristan area against the TTP,” Mr. Dunford said in response to a question.