USA/Pakistan — Chairman Cites Importance of U.S.-Pakistan Ties

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010 — The Unit­ed States is work­ing hard to regain Pakistan’s trust after sev­er­al years with­out a rela­tion­ship, but it’s going to take time, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yes­ter­day.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen made the com­ments as part of an inter­view with David Sanger, New York Times chief Wash­ing­ton cor­re­spon­dent, at the inau­gur­al Aspen Secu­ri­ty Forum, part of the Aspen Insti­tute, in Col­orado.

“It’s not going to hap­pen overnight,” Mullen said of regain­ing the Pak­ista­nis’ trust. But, he added, “I’ve seen sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ments in the whole of gov­ern­ment.”

Strong rela­tions with Pak­istan are impor­tant to stamp­ing out ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan and Pak­istan that threat­ens the Unit­ed States, Mullen said, not­ing that he recent­ly returned from his 18th trip to Pak­istan since becom­ing chair­man.

“I believe the lead­er­ship in Pak­istan rec­og­nizes the impor­tance of how it all turns out in Afghanistan,” he said. “We are in agree­ment that Afghanistan needs to be sta­ble and peace­ful. How we get there and the long-term com­mit­ment is crit­i­cal. That’s a huge part of the engage­ment strat­e­gy with Pak­istan.”

The U.S. and NATO strat­e­gy in Afghanistan is to dis­man­tle the lead­er­ship of al-Qai­da to make the ter­ror­ist group inef­fec­tive.

“And the al-Qai­da lead­er­ship resides in Pak­istan,” Mullen said.

Resum­ing U.S.-Pakistan rela­tions that end­ed in the 1990s also is impor­tant in light of Pakistan’s nuclear arse­nal, Mullen said.

“I have raised this issue with the Pak­istani mil­i­tary since Day 1,” he said. “These are the most impor­tant weapons in the Pak­istani arse­nal. That is under­stood by the lead­er­ship, and they go to extra­or­di­nary efforts to pro­tect and secure them. These are their crown jew­els. As much as we are focused on this [ter­ror­ism] threat – and the Pak­ista­nis are more than they used to be – they see a threat in India and [hav­ing nuclear weapons] is their deter­rent. They see this as a huge part of their nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

As for efforts by Iran and North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons, Mullen described a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. “There isn’t any rea­son to trust [Iran],” he said. “There is an uncer­tain­ty asso­ci­at­ed with Iran that is very con­sis­tent with Iran for a long time.”

North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons and its increas­ing aggres­sive­ness — it sank a South Kore­an naval ship in March, killing 46 sailors — are cause for con­cern, the chair­man said. He not­ed there’s “a lot of work going on” with the Unit­ed Nations regard­ing North Korea.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to pre­dict what is going to hap­pen next,” he said, adding that he’d put North Korea “at the top of the list” of nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion con­cerns.

It is impor­tant to con­tin­ue sanc­tions against Iran, North Korea, and oth­er coun­tries that ignore inter­na­tion­al law on nuclear weapons, Mullen said.

“The total­i­ty of the inter­na­tion­al pres­sure – polit­i­cal, diplo­mat­ic, eco­nom­ic – has con­tin­ued to be increased over time,” he said. “The over­all strat­e­gy to real­ly squeeze those pro­lif­er­a­tors has to con­tin­ue in every pos­si­ble way.”

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