Rawalpindi, Jan 25 : Admiral William Fallon, chief of US Central Command, which includes Pakistan in its area of responsibility, has said that Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani is a professional soldier who wants to rebuild an army whose reputation was tarnished during the Musharraf regime.
Fallon said that the new Chief of Staff "sees the army as an apolitical force" and that Kiyani pledged that "he wants free and open elections" on February 18.
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," Fallon continued. He said Kiyani would try to reorient the army from its focus on the external threat posed by India to greater recognition of the internal danger posed by Muslim extremists, especially the al-Qaeda terrorists who operate from tribal areas of Pakistan.
In recent years, when Pervez Musharraf was simultaneously President and Army Chief, the military has been a politicised force that has added to the country's instability.
Musharraf tried to subdue these tribal areas by marching troops in -- and ultimately was forced to accept a humiliating truce with the rebels.
Kiyani plans a different approach, more in keeping with America's new ideas about counterinsurgency, the Washington Post quoted Fallon, as saying.
"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, he added.
Fallon said the United States plans to work with Kiyani and the Pakistani army on new programmes that will bring more economic growth and the rule of law to the tribal areas.
Kiyani has shown signs that he wants to lead the army away from its politicised role under Musharraf, he said.
Kiyani famously declared 2008 "the year of the soldier," and he backed up that call with two directives this month. One bans Pakistani generals from meeting with politicians without the chief of staff's approval. A second directive threatens to recall current or former officers who got plum jobs in civilian ministries during Musharraf's tenure as chief of staff, the paper reported.