‘Kayani working to rebuild army’s professionalism’
WASHINGTON: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Kayani is working to rebuild the army’s professionalism and stop Al Qaeda in the Tribal Areas, and thus remains a “crucial personality in maintaining stability” in the country “after the political demise” of President Pervez Musharraf, according to an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday.
David Ignatius, the Post columnist, who travelled to Pakistan in January with Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command- who resigned this week because of differences with the Bush administration - writes that Fallon wanted the American public to know the outcome of his meeting with Kayani in Rawalpindi on January 22. When Ignatius wrote about the meeting, “the Pentagon brass and the White House were in a dither about the Kayani comments.” Ignatius records that what he wrote was based on Fallon’s briefing to him. The Centcom chief even wanted the journalist to accompany him to the meeting with Kayani but that proved “impossible”.
Fallon told Ignatius that Kayani is a professional soldier who wants to rebuild an army whose reputation and morale were tarnished during the Musharraf years. Fallon said that the new chief of staff “sees the army as a political force” and that Kayani pledged “he wants free and open elections”. In contrast with the Musharraf years, Fallon said, “I would expect the army gets a lot more attention now because the guy who’s in charge only has one job. I’m encouraged that he seems to understand the necessity of doing counterinsurgency.” Noting that Musharraf tried to subdue Tribal Areas by marching troops in and ultimately was forced to accept a “humiliating truce” with the rebels, Fallon said Kayani plans a different approach, more in keeping with America’s new ideas about counterinsurgency. “He knows that you can only do so much with military force,” Fallon said. To contain an insurgency, “you need to take care of the population” through economic and social development. The Centcom chief also stressed that “there’s a fair amount of sensitivity to a very visible US footprint inside the country”. khalid hasan