Mullen: Leaders See Need for Partnership

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, April 20, 2011 — Lead­ers in both Pak­istan and the Unit­ed States rec­og­nize the impor­tance of a strate­gic part­ner­ship with each oth­er and will work through prob­lems to ensure it remains strong, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen acknowl­edged rela­tions between the two coun­tries hit a rough patch after CIA con­trac­tor Ray­mond Davis shot two men in Lahore.

Davis was in Pak­istani cus­tody for sev­en weeks, and his release in March — after the victim’s rel­a­tives received com­pen­sa­tion — caused riot­ing.

“When we go through a cri­sis like this, the focus is to assess where we are, [deter­mine whether there are] causal fac­tors with respect to that, and assess that and move for­ward,” Mullen told Pak­istani reporters at the U.S. embassy.

Rela­tions between the two mil­i­taries remain good, the chair­man said.

“We are expe­ri­enc­ing bet­ter coor­di­na­tion in the [Afghanistan-Pak­istan] bor­der area than we’ve ever had,” he said. “I have more rela­tion­ships up and down the chain of com­mand … in ways a cou­ple of years ago just did­n’t exist — all of which I’m encour­aged by.”

The growth of rela­tions is not lim­it­ed to the Pak­istani army. The Pak­istani air force and navy are part­ner­ing with the U.S. Air Force and Navy, the chair­man said.

“Over­all, I’m opti­mistic, but ful­ly aware and ful­ly cog­nizant of the very dif­fi­cult time we’ve recent­ly been through,” he said.

Mullen said he is con­cerned about the growth and threat of ter­ror­ism in Pak­istan, not­ing that the Lashkar-e-Tai­ba, or LeT, which launched the attack in Mum­bai in 2008, is not just an east­ern Pak­istan threat focused on India.

“I see them with glob­al aspi­ra­tions,” he told the Pak­istani reporters. Sev­er­al ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing the Haqqani net­work, al-Qai­da, LeT and the Jamaat-ud-Dawah — are work­ing togeth­er, the chair­man added.

“There’s a syn­di­ca­tion that’s occur­ring in the region over the course of the last three years that is more and more wor­ri­some,” he said. And the Tehrik-i-Tal­iban, which Pak­istani gov­ern­ment offi­cials see as the main threat to the coun­try, “has espoused aspi­ra­tions out­side the region,” Mullen added.

The syn­di­ca­tion means that ter­ror­ist lead­ers merge their capa­bil­i­ties and assist each oth­er in attacks, the chair­man explained.

“That’s what leads me to believe that the bor­der area between Afghanistan and Pak­istan is the epi­cen­ter of ter­ror­ism in the world,” he said. “And it breeds more and more of capa­bil­i­ty over time.”

All coun­tries in the region need to be involved, Mullen said, and that includes India.

“It’s going to get worse over time, and they will kill more and more inno­cent peo­ple over time,” he said. “Respon­si­ble civil­ian lead­er­ship in all these coun­tries has to con­tin­ue to address these issues.”

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

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