Will make Pakistan a priority engagement, says new Centcom chief

Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie, the next chief of the US Central Command (Centcom) has said that there are two key elements of an Afghan peace deal — Pakistan’s concerns over India’s growing influence in Afghanistan and what the US could do to allay those concerns, reported the Dawn.

Both issues were highlighted at a congressional hearing this week by McKenzie in a written response to the US Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing the other day.

He also said that as Centcom chief, he “will make Pakistan a priority engagement”.

“At this time, Pakistan does not appear to be using the full extent of its influence to encourage the Taliban to come to the table,” he wrote in a response posted on the committee’s website on Wednesday.

“We continue to see the Taliban being utilised as a hedge against India rather than as part of a stable, reconciled Afghanistan,” he added.

Gen McKenzie acknowledged that Pakistan “has national interests it wants addressed in any future political settlement in the region, including a politically stable Afghanistan”.

He said that under his command, US Centcom would continue to support efforts “towards a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Afghanistan which includes ensuring that Islamabad’s equities are acknowledged in any future agreement”.

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