Mullen Meets With Pakistanis to Align Interests, Goals

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, Dec. 14, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in Pak­istan today on his 21st vis­it to a key ally in the war against extrem­ists in Cen­tral Asia.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will meet with Pak­istani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ash­faq Kayani, U.S. Ambas­sador to Pak­istan Cameron Munter, and oth­er U.S. and Pak­istani lead­ers.

“We will update each oth­er and where we stand on cer­tain issues,” Mullen said, adding that he wants the Pak­istani military’s take on what is hap­pen­ing in the region. In addi­tion to his 21 trips here, Mullen also has met often with Pak­istani lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton and else­where.

One sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge is sim­ply defin­ing mutu­al inter­ests and objec­tives, the chair­man said on the plane trip here. “The best way I know how to do that is an indi­vid­ual meet­ing,” he said.

Mullen said he will not brief Kayani on the White House’s Afghanistan-Pak­istan review, because it is not done yet. The two mil­i­tary lead­ers will dis­cuss the con­tin­u­ing prob­lem of mil­i­tants along the Afghan-Pak­istani bor­der and the prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with Afghan Tal­iban sanc­tu­ar­ies in Pak­istan, the chair­man said.

The stolen clas­si­fied mate­ri­als pub­lished on the Wik­iLeaks web­site may com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion, Mullen acknowl­edged, but he said he is com­fort­able his rela­tion­ship with mil­i­tary lead­ers in Pak­istan can han­dle any awk­ward issues. They will dis­cuss hard issues, and his rela­tion­ship will allow that, he said.

Mullen said he hopes to get a read-out of the Pak­istani floods that dev­as­tat­ed the coun­try over the sum­mer. He and Kayani sur­veyed the dam­age in an exten­sive heli­copter tour the last time the chair­man was in Pak­istan, and the Pak­istani mil­i­tary was heav­i­ly involved in flood relief.

The floods affect­ed mil­lions of peo­ple through­out some of the most pop­u­lat­ed areas of the nation. Whole vil­lages were destroyed, and large areas were sub­merged. The Pak­istani army had to take per­son­nel, heli­copters and vehi­cles from its mil­i­tary efforts along the bor­der to help in the human­i­tar­i­an dis­as­ter.

Deal­ing with the Tal­iban sanc­tu­ar­ies is a pri­or­i­ty, Mullen said, not­ing that the Pak­istani chief of staff has met with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, on the issue.

“It gets back to this align­ment or mis­align­ment of inter­ests,” the chair­man said. “The [Pak­istani mil­i­tary] is under attack from these extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions. This is a coun­try we con­tin­ue to try to build trust with, have a rela­tion­ship with and get our inter­ests aligned so we’re both clear­ly head­ed in the same direc­tion.”

Mullen said he believes in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Pak­istan and Afghanistan with peo­ple who see the error of their ways and wish to affil­i­ate with the gov­ern­ment. “That should be encour­aged, but I also fun­da­men­tal­ly believe there are irrec­on­cil­ables,” Mullen said.

The engage­ment with Pak­istan doesn’t begin and end with the chair­man. Offi­cers and non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers in both coun­tries have trained and worked togeth­er since rela­tions were re-estab­lished in 2002. Amer­i­can train­ers have worked with the Fron­tier Scouts, and Pak­istani com­man­ders down to com­pa­ny lev­el now are famil­iar, at least, with Amer­i­cans, he said. Many Pak­istani offi­cers have tak­en pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion cours­es in the Unit­ed States, and U.S. offi­cers have attend­ed the Pak­istani ver­sion of the War Col­lege. All this means that peo­ple are build­ing trust at a per­son­al lev­el with a key ally, Mullen said.

The chair­man stressed that Amer­i­cans have not been involved in any com­bat oper­a­tions with the Pak­istan mil­i­tary. The Unit­ed States is impa­tient to see the Tal­iban sanc­tu­ar­ies elim­i­nat­ed, he added, but U.S. lead­ers must exer­cise “strate­gic patience” with the Pak­ista­nis to build the trust nec­es­sary to forge a good alliance.

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

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