Gates: Extrem­ism Biggest Threat to Pak­istan, India

By Don­na Miles
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan, The most press­ing threat to Pak­istan and India — and the region, as well as the Unit­ed States — is vio­lent extrem­ism, not each oth­er, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today, reit­er­at­ing the mes­sage he deliv­ered in his last stop in India. “This was a theme that I basi­cal­ly sound­ed while I was in India: that Afghanistan, Pak­istan and India all share a com­mon ene­my, as do we in the Unit­ed States,” Gates said dur­ing inter­views with Pakistan’s Express TV cable sta­tion and the state-owned Pak­istan TV at U.S. Ambas­sador to Pak­istan Anne W. Patterson’s offi­cial res­i­dence.

Gates cit­ed a ter­ror syn­di­cate that threat­ens the region, not­ing that the var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions all oper­ate under the same umbrel­la. “You can’t say one is good and one is not good,” he said. “They are all insid­i­ous, and safe havens for all of them need to be elim­i­nat­ed.”

The sec­re­tary empha­sized the need for Pak­istan and India to work coop­er­a­tive­ly, and with the Unit­ed States and coali­tion, to face this threat, rather than point­ing fin­gers at each oth­er.

He worked to allay con­cerns about India’s activ­i­ties in Afghanistan, empha­siz­ing that Indi­an offi­cials assured him dur­ing his vis­it to New Del­hi that they are lim­it­ed to eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment pro­grams.

“[Indi­an] Prime Min­is­ter [Man­mo­han] Singh was very explic­it in say­ing that either in Afghanistan or more gen­er­al­ly, that Pak­istan has noth­ing to fear from India,” he said.

Gates con­grat­u­lat­ed the Pak­ista­nis today on the suc­cess of the oper­a­tions they have con­duct­ed in con­fronting vio­lent extrem­ists.

Gates declined to dis­cuss drone activ­i­ties direct­ly, but offered, “I will say that these unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles have been extreme­ly use­ful to us, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.”

The Unit­ed States is work­ing to pro­vide the Pak­ista­nis their own intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance assets, he said, and con­sid­er­ing pro­vid­ing tac­ti­cal UAVs – 12 unarmed RQ‑7 Shad­ows fund­ed through the Pak­istan coun­terin­sur­gency fund.

These capa­bil­i­ties would help the Pak­istani mil­i­tary bet­ter mon­i­tor activ­i­ties along the country’s porous bor­der with Afghanistan, he said.

Asked about the July 2011 time­line to begin troop with­drawals in Afghanistan under Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan strat­e­gy, Gates empha­sized that it marks only the begin­ning of a process of draw­ing down. “There is no dead­line,” he said, and the draw­down pace is to be deter­mined by con­di­tions on the ground.

Gates said he’s con­fi­dent in the new strat­e­gy, and believes that with Army Gen. Stan­ley McChrys­tal over­see­ing its imple­men­ta­tion and 30,000 addi­tion­al U.S. troops on the ground, “we have the right leader and the right troops soon to be in place to be suc­cess­ful in this con­flict.”

Gates acknowl­edged dur­ing the inter­views the Unit­ed States’ past mis­take in aban­don­ing Pak­istan, and promised not to repeat it. “We are deter­mined to be a reli­able and long-term ally,” he said.

“We are focused on the way ahead.”

The sec­re­tary acknowl­edged “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” with­in Pak­istan and else­where about U.S. inten­tions, and coun­tered them head-on.

“We have no inten­tion or desire to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” he said. “We have no desire to occu­py any part of Pak­istan or split up any part of Pak­istan. We have no intent to split the Islam­ic world.

“And I can keep going, because we are aware of these con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries as much as any­one,” he con­tin­ued. “And they are all non­sense.”

Gates expressed admi­ra­tion for the way Pakistan’s mil­i­tary has stepped up to face extrem­ism, and rec­og­nized the sac­ri­fices it has tak­en in the process.

“We are pre­pared to pro­vide what­ev­er help they want to make them more effec­tive,” he said.

Gates met today with Pak­istani Defense Min­is­ter Ahmad Mukhtar, Army Chief Gen. Ash­faq Parvez Kayani and Gen. Tariq Majid, chair­man Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee, and Intel­li­gence Chief Gen. Ahmad Shu­jaa Pasha.

He attend­ed a din­ner host­ed by Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zardari, where he also met with Prime Min­is­ter Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and For­eign Min­is­ter Makhdoom Shah Mah­mood Qureshi.

While in Islam­abad, Gates laid a flo­ral wreath at the Pak­istan army’s Mar­tyrs Mon­u­ment hon­or­ing those lost for Pakistan’s secu­ri­ty.

Gates char­ac­ter­ized today’s ses­sions as high­ly pro­duc­tive, touch­ing on a wide range of impor­tant issues, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell told reporters.

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