Mullen Expresses Confidence in U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he’s con­fi­dent the U.S. and Pak­istan can resolve the issues that led to Pak­istan clos­ing a major sup­ply route for U.S. and NATO oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, and he has­n’t yet seen any major impact from the clos­ing.

The U.S. mil­i­tary has ana­lyzed the sit­u­a­tion to deter­mine what the effects would be if the route was closed for a longer peri­od, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters between speak­ing engage­ments Oct. 1 in Tuc­son, Ariz., but offi­cials are hop­ing such a clo­sure can be avert­ed.

“I believe we will fig­ure a way to work our way through this,” he said, empha­siz­ing Pakistan’s impor­tance as a strate­gic part­ner.

Pakistan’s mil­i­tary closed the cross­ing at Torkham Gate along its north­west­ern bor­der with Afghanistan after U.S. heli­copters unknow­ing­ly killed sev­er­al Pak­istani bor­der guards Sept. 30. The inci­dent esca­lat­ed ten­sions over civil­ian casu­al­ties along the bor­der, prompt­ing the clo­sure.

About 50 per­cent of coali­tion forces’ non-lethal sup­plies, includ­ing water, food and fuel, reach Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Torkham and Shaman gates.

Mullen, who has vis­it­ed Pak­istan 20 times since tak­ing the top mil­i­tary post in 2007, said the Unit­ed States has been work­ing to rebuild Pak­istani trust. How that’s resolved, he said, will go a long way toward shap­ing the future U.S.-Pakistani rela­tion­ship.

“We left them in a dark hole from about 1990 to 2002, and they don’t trust us,” he said. “We are try­ing to rebuild that trust. And it’s basi­cal­ly com­ing, but you don’t rebuild it overnight.”

This effort, he not­ed, comes at a time of “enor­mous chal­lenge” for Pak­istan, whose bor­der with Afghanistan is “the epi­cen­ter of ter­ror­ism.”

Mas­sive flood­ing has com­pound­ed Pakistan’s strug­gles. “They have just been dev­as­tat­ed,” said Mullen, who toured flood-strick­en areas of Pak­istan last month with Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, the Pak­istani army’s chief of staff.

Mean­while, the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to pro­vide relief to flood vic­tims in north­west­ern Pak­istan. U.S. mil­i­tary aid oper­a­tions began Aug. 5 with Army heli­copters from Afghanistan deliv­er­ing sup­plies and res­cu­ing those trapped by flood­ing. Marine heli­copters from the USS Peleliu replaced the Army air­craft, and togeth­er they have deliv­ered more than 8 mil­lion pounds or relief sup­plies, report­ed DOD spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan.

Air Force C‑130s and C‑17s have been deliv­er­ing aid since Aug. 16. As of last week, air­men have deliv­ered more than 5.5 mil­lion pounds of aid. This brings the total to almost 13.7 mil­lion pounds of aid, Lapan said.

The U.S. mil­i­tary air­craft have res­cued more than 20,000 dis­placed Pak­ista­nis.

“Flood relief efforts con­tin­ue,” Lapan said. “It has not been curbed, but there are ongo­ing dis­cus­sions about what the need is, because there are now roads open that were not pre­vi­ous­ly.”

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

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