Clinton, Mullen Meet With Pakistani Leaders

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2011 — Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met with Pak­istani lead­ers today in an effort to shore up rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan.
Clin­ton and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met in the Pak­istani cap­i­tal of Islam­abad with Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zadari, Prime Min­is­ter Yousef Raza Gilani, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ash­faq Kayani and Intel­li­gence Chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Pasha.

Clin­ton described the meet­ings as “very exten­sive, open, frank and con­struc­tive dis­cus­sions.” The rela­tion­ship has been strained by the U.S. oper­a­tion in Abbot­tabad, Pak­istan, that killed al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden on May 1.

Mullen stressed “the crit­i­cal­i­ty” of the rela­tion­ship between Pak­istan and the Unit­ed States, of the shared sense of urgency that lead­ers in both nations feel and of mov­ing the rela­tion­ship for­ward.

“I think we all real­ize the chal­lenges under which this rela­tion­ship now labors, but now is not the time for retreat or for recrim­i­na­tion,” the chair­man said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the U.S. embassy. “Now is the time for action and clos­er coor­di­na­tion — for more coop­er­a­tion, not less [and] for the friend­ship to get stronger, not weak­er.” Clin­ton said the vis­it comes at an impor­tant time because bin Laden’s death marks a turn­ing point in the strug­gle against extrem­ists.

“Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qai­da and its syn­di­cate of ter­ror remain a seri­ous threat to us both,” she said. “There is momen­tum toward polit­i­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Afghanistan, but the insur­gency con­tin­ues to oper­ate from safe havens here in Pak­istan.”

The Unit­ed States has been clear and con­sis­tent about its expec­ta­tions in the rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan, the sec­re­tary said. She said both coun­tries want to defeat vio­lent extrem­ism, end the con­flict in Afghanistan and ensure a secure, sta­ble, demo­c­ra­t­ic, pros­per­ous future for Pak­istan. “We expect to work close­ly with the gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of Pak­istan to achieve those ends,” she said.

Many ter­ror­ists have sought refuge in Pak­istan and have used the coun­try as a plan­ning cen­ter, the sec­re­tary not­ed. “From here, they have tar­get­ed inno­cent peo­ple all over the world — in Pak­istan, Afghanistan and far beyond,” Clin­ton said. “But no nation has sac­ri­ficed more lives in this strug­gle against vio­lent extrem­ism than Pak­istan has. Extrem­ists have killed women and chil­dren, blown up mosques and mar­kets, and shown no regard for human life or dig­ni­ty.”

The Unit­ed States and Pak­istan have worked togeth­er to take on these ter­ror­ists, Clin­ton said, and the gov­ern­ments and mil­i­taries have coop­er­at­ed and shared intel­li­gence often. “Today, we dis­cussed in even greater detail coop­er­a­tion to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da, and to dri­ve them from Pak­istan and the region,” the sec­re­tary said. “We will do our part and we look to the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan to take deci­sive steps in the days ahead. Joint action against al-Qai­da and its affil­i­ates will make Pak­istan, Amer­i­ca and the world safer and more secure.”

Clin­ton stressed there is absolute­ly no evi­dence that any­one at the high­est lev­els of the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment knew Osama bin Laden was liv­ing in Abbot­tabad.

Pak­istan has an inter­est in a safe, sta­ble Afghanistan, and the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan must work togeth­er to achieve that goal, Clin­ton said, adding that the Unit­ed States is work­ing with Afghanistan to split the Tal­iban from al-Qai­da and rec­on­cile insur­gents who meet cer­tain cri­te­ria.

“Today, we dis­cussed Pakistan’s per­spec­tive on Afghanistan and how it can sup­port the inter­na­tion­al community’s efforts there,” Clin­ton said. “We look for­ward to putting those words into action and see­ing momen­tum toward a polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion.”

Bin Laden’s death has caused ter­ror­ists to lash out in Pak­istan, and the Afghan and Pak­istani Tal­iban con­tin­ue to col­lude with al-Qai­da, the chair­man said.

“To be sure, these groups are weak­er — much weak­er — and not just as a result of this raid, but as a result of the extra­or­di­nary efforts expend­ed by both coali­tion forces and the Pak­istani mil­i­tary over the last sev­er­al years,” Mullen said. “There is a much larg­er strug­gle afoot, and I would be remiss if I did not applaud the brav­ery and the skill with which Pak­istani troops have engaged the ene­my in that strug­gle, los­ing thou­sands of their num­ber in the process.”

The fight must con­tin­ue, and Pak­istani and Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers must con­tin­ue to coop­er­ate, Mullen said.

“For our part, my mil­i­tary took many risks going after bin Laden, risks to the lives of our men and women in uni­form, risks to civil­ian causal­i­ties and to col­lat­er­al dam­age,” Mullen said. “We took the risk of being wrong about what we thought we knew of the killer’s where­abouts. And yes, in our desire to pre­serve secre­cy, we incurred a cer­tain risk in our rela­tion­ships with oth­er nations in the region.

“But this par­tic­u­lar rela­tion­ship with Pak­istan is too crit­i­cal,” he added, “and now is too crit­i­cal a time to allow what­ev­er dif­fer­ences we may still have with one anoth­er impede the progress we must still make togeth­er.”

The chair­man acknowl­edged that he real­izes U.S. and Pak­istani ser­vice mem­bers must con­tin­ue to build trust — trust that has been test­ed by the bin Laden raid.

“But I do leave here with a sense that Gen­er­al Kayani and oth­er Pak­istani mil­i­tary lead­ers share my com­mit­ment to that task and share my desire to look for ways to advance the rela­tion­ship,” he said. “There’s no bet­ter time for that sort of part­ner­ship than right now.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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