US needs Pakistan’s cooperation: Mike MullenBy Our Correspondent
Thursday, 25 Mar, 2010
WASHINGTON: The United States required ‘ever more’ cooperation with Pakistan to execute its new strategy for defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, the US military chief told a congressional panel on Wednesday.
During a hearing on the US defence budget, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned that the United States could not afford to lose in Afghanistan.
“Right now, the Taliban still believe they’re winning. Eighteen months from now, if we have executed our strategy, we’ll know they aren’t, and they will know that they can’t,” he told the House Subcommittee on Defence.
“Getting there will demand discipline and hard work. It will require ever more cooperation with Pakistan, with whose leaders we are meeting this week. And it will most assuredly demand more sacrifice and more bloodshed,” he said. “But the stakes are too high for failure,” he warned.
Admiral Mullen and the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also acknowledged that Pakistan’s “extraordinary” military campaign against Taliban insurgents had helped improve ties with the United States.
They told the congressional panel they believed Pakistan now understood that it needed to combat the Taliban for its own security because they were an existential threat to the Pakistani state.
In his testimony, Admiral Mullen said that trust between the two nations was returning.
The praise marked a change in US attitude towards Pakistan and came in the middle of a two-day strategic dialogue which began on Wednesday.
Admiral Mullen said the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue was “a huge step forward in terms of strengthening the partnership, and it is a partnership”.
Mr Gates and Admiral Mullen are also participating in defence talks with Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as part of the strategic dialogue.
The two US officials have already had an hour-long meeting with Gen Kayani at the Pentagon.
The panel’s chairman, Congressman Norm Dicks, also said that during a recent visit to Pakistan he was impressed with the commitment of the Pakistan government and military in the last 10 months and their military operations in Swat and South Waziristan.
“And I was even impressed yesterday in a briefing from Gen Kayani that they’re doing a lot more in the northern part of Waziristan,” he added.
Secretary Gates agreed, noting that what Pakistan had done against the militants since last year “has really been extraordinary, in my view… in terms of becoming engaged, in terms of their operations, in terms of understanding that they now face an existential threat in this area”.
The Pakistanis now understood that people based along the Pakistan-Afghan border wanted to destabilise and overthrow their government and replace it with an Islamic fundamentalist radical regime.
“They understand this. Their civilian government understands this. And their troops have paid a heavy price for these operations. They have suffered thousands of casualties in recent years in taking on these guys.”
The US defence secretary noted that in the last month the Pakistanis had not only become “much more aggressive and active” on their side of the border, but they also developed “partnership or relationship” with the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.
Pakistani and US troops in Afghanistan were now coordinating with each while conducting operations on both sides of the border, he added. “I think (it) represents a hugely salutary development.”
Admiral Mullen added that the Pakistani military had worked hard, first of all, to get the support of the Pakistani people, which was very low a couple of years ago, and now it’s “exceptionally high”.
He noted that the Pakistan military had undertaken nine separate campaigns over the last 12 to 18 months, most recently through Waziristan and Swat. “I’ve been through Swat with Gen Kayani, spent all day there, and they truly have turned that place around,” he observed.