Pace Calls Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan Trip 'Productive'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 26, 2006 Marine Gen. Peter Pace called his weeklong trip to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey "very productive," and said American military officials must continue to develop relations with such important American allies.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it is important to keep the high-level meetings going to minimize miscommunications among friends.
Pace spoke to reporters aboard a KC-10 on its way here from Istanbul, the last stop in a seven-day trip. He said the visits allowed him to acquaint himself to the leaders of the region.
"They didn't have a chance to know me before, they may or may not know me now, but I feel like I had a chance ... to express my views to them," Pace said. "I hope I came across as honest and open with them in everything I was saying."
Relations with any country has its ups and downs, Pace said, which can be complicated by cultural and linguistic differences. "I'm really pleased to have the opportunity in each country to go face to face with my counterparts, which helps when there is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation," he said.
This allows the leaders to understand "that if (something) doesn't sound right, it probably isn't right, because they know you. Rather than believe the worst, we are all much more willing, when you know each other, to work harder to find the truth in what was said."
Pace said that he "did more listening than talking" during the meetings. Still, he was able to answer questions from his counterparts on U.S. government policy on Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. "It made for a full and open dialogue," he said.
Officials traveling with the chairman said all three countries are important U.S. allies.
Pakistan is a frontline state in the war on al Qaeda and the Taliban. The country has provided logistic support and shared intelligence with American forces in the region. In addition, the Pakistani military has operated against al Qaeda and the Taliban trying to operate in Pakistan's Waziristan province.
The United States has a humanitarian interest in the country as well, and Pace visited U.S. servicemembers helping the country recover from a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck in October 2005. The quake killed about 75,000 people.
In Saudi Arabia, Pace was able to listen to concerns of King Abdullah and defense officials about Iraq and other issues in the region. Pace said the United States will try to schedule more military exercises with its Saudi ally.
In Turkey, Pace said he tried "to solidify the superb relationship" between the two countries. "I looked them in the eye and told them the truth," he said.
The general said that even though the questions have been put on the table many times publicly, the answers are different in person from when people read about them or see them on TV.
The chairman said his visits built on previous ones by other government officials, and said further visits will build on his progress. "We have to keep the dialogue open so you have ample opportunity to answer the questions before the questions become confusion," Pace said.