ISLAMABAD -- US officials have been ramping up visits to Pakistan and contact with Pakistani officials in a sign of warming ties between Washington and Islamabad.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a Tuesday (July 25) phone call with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declared the United States' support for Pakistan's economic recovery and "shared regional concerns including Afghanistan".
Blinken's call followed a visit by US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla to Pakistan Sunday through Tuesday.
Kurrilla Sunday conferred on various matters with Gen. Syed Asim Munir, Pakistani chief of army staff, and other senior military leaders, in Rawalpindi, CENTCOM said in a press release.
The officials discussed "strengthening the military-to-military relations between the Pakistani Armed Forces and USCENTCOM with a particular focus on counter-terrorism, military trauma combat casualty care, security cooperation, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance opportunities," it said.
On Monday, Kurilla visited Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Centre and Pakistani Army Sniper School and discussed various topics with senior military officials there, including "combined Pakistan and USCENTCOM counter-terrorism training opportunities, and the training management process of the Pakistani Army".
Meanwhile, US National Security Council Senior Director for South Asia Rear Adm. Eileen Laubacher discussed matters of mutual interest with Bilawal in Islamabad July 20.
Bilawal and Laubacher "reaffirmed commitment to further deepen Pakistan-U.S. ties & expand cooperation in trade, economy and energy for regional peace and stability", the foreign minister said in a tweet that day.
Boosting regional stability
Agreements aimed at bolstering Pakistani law enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorism further highlight the warming relationship between the two nations.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome on July 13 inaugurated a $17.2 million Joint Police Training Centre in Nowshera district and signed another agreement to deliver $3 million in life-saving equipment to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police, the US embassy in Islamabad said.
The centre, which was built by the embassy's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) during the last 12 years and funded solely by the US government, can train 1,700 police officers at one time.
The embassy funded the construction of 75 buildings, including academic buildings, a health unit, men's and women's dormiories and a multi-purpose hall.
Under another agreement, the embassy and the INL will provide KP Police with armoured vehicles, bulletproof vests and helmets, the embassy said.
“Washington's recent engagements suggest that the United States is showing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan caused by the TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] and other militant groups," said Faizan Hussain, an international relations scholar based in Peshawar.
Pakistan achieved significant success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the TTP and other al-Qaeda-allied groups in 2014, thanks to financial and technological support from the United States, he told Pakistan Forward.
"Gen. Kurilla's third visit to Pakistan within less than a year indicates that the US has recognised Pakistan's need for assistance in its ongoing fight against terrorism," he said.
In addition, in June, the INL donated two vehicles to the KP government.
They "will support Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s efforts to conduct counternarcotics field inspections for poppy reduction", the embassy said in a statement.
Such assistance is critical.
The KP Police are fully committed to combating the TTP and other militant groups, said a senior police officer in Peshawar.
However, their efforts are hampered by a lack of resources, particularly the lack of life-saving equipment, which has impeded effective law enforcement and resulted in the deaths of officers, the officer said on the condition of anonymity.