U.S., Pakistan Work Through Tensions, Mullen Says

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, April 20, 2011 — Mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary ties between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan remain good despite recent ten­sions between the two coun­tries, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen cit­ed out­cry over Ray­mond Davis — an Amer­i­can who was accused of two mur­ders and left Pak­istan after the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies were finan­cial­ly com­pen­sat­ed — and U.S. drone strikes as fac­tors in strained rela­tions between the coun­tries.

Mullen spoke to Pak­istani jour­nal­ists before a meet­ing with Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani, the Pak­istani army’s chief of staff. The chair­man said that despite dif­fer­ences between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan, many issues draw the coun­tries togeth­er. Those issues run the gamut of eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal ties, as well as secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, he added.

“I acknowl­edge that over the chal­lenges that exist over address­ing these threats, first of all, we will have our ups and downs,” Mullen said. “We will have our agree­ments and dis­agree­ments, and I cer­tain­ly don’t dis­agree that the Davis case and the strike that fol­lowed imme­di­ate­ly there­after was a huge set­back.” But the rela­tion­ship he has with senior mil­i­tary lead­ers here has allowed them to frankly state their views and move ahead, he added.

Mullen said he will dis­cuss the Haqqani net­work, which aids the Tal­iban, with Pak­istani lead­ers.

“I have a sacred respon­si­bil­i­ty to do all I can to save Amer­i­can lives,” he said. “The Haqqani net­work very specif­i­cal­ly sup­ports the Tal­iban, who move into Afghanistan to kill Amer­i­cans. I can’t accept that. I’ll do every­thing I pos­si­bly can to pre­vent that, specif­i­cal­ly.”

The most dif­fi­cult chal­lenge posed by the Tal­iban threat in Afghanistan is address­ing the sup­port the Tal­iban receive from the Haqqani net­work, Mullen said. The Inter-Ser­vices Intel­li­gence agency of the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, known as ISI, has had a long rela­tion­ship with the Haqqani net­work.

“Address­ing the net­work is, from my per­spec­tive, crit­i­cal to the solu­tion set in Afghanistan,” Mullen said. “The real­i­ty is the Haqqani [net­work] is sup­port­ing, fund­ing [and] train­ing fight­ers that are killing Amer­i­cans, killing coali­tion part­ners. I have a sacred oblig­a­tion to do all I can to make sure that does­n’t hap­pen.”

The ISI has worked with these groups to pro­tect their coun­try, the chair­man said. “I under­stand the strate­gic rela­tion­ships that the ISI has had in the region over time,” told reporters. “I under­stand the ISI and mil­i­tary -– like all mil­i­taries and intel­li­gence agen­cies — has as a pri­or­i­ty to take care of its own coun­try.

“Some­times, we obvi­ous­ly dis­agree as to how that’s done,” he con­tin­ued. “But where it affects the lives of … Amer­i­can mil­i­tary who are fight­ing in Afghanistan, I have grave con­cerns that any­thing that could sup­port orga­ni­za­tions like Haqqani, … it is my respon­si­bil­i­ty [to act].”

Mullen said al-Qai­da has been set back, but still is a force. The ter­ror organization’s lead­er­ship still lives in Pakistan’s fed­er­al­ly admin­is­tered trib­al area, he said, and they still threat­en the Unit­ed States. He cred­it­ed the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment with step­ping up its fight against ter­ror­ism with­in the country’s bor­ders.

“What the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary has done to address the ter­ror­ist prob­lem inside Pak­istan has been sig­nif­i­cant,” the chair­man said. “I give the Pak­istan mil­i­tary a lot of cred­it. Some of those units have been up on the fron­tier fight­ing for two years. That’s a long time. There is no easy solu­tion for this threat.”

As he has in the past, Mullen not­ed that a deficit of trust has exist­ed between the Unit­ed States and Pak­istan since the Unit­ed States cut off mil­i­tary con­tacts between the two coun­tries in 1990. The mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship re-start­ed in 2002, he said, but the effects of the rift still are being felt.

“We can’t just snap our fin­gers and say ‘OK, we trust each oth­er now,’ ” he said. “This has to be care­ful­ly and con­stant­ly worked on.”

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

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