U.S. and Pakistan Welcome Increased Military Ties
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2002 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has taken "a bold and firm and constructive" position on the war against terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.
"Just last month," the secretary told reporters at the Pentagon, "President Musharraf took additional measures to rein in extremism and to extend his government's cooperation against terrorism. He's made a series of very tough decisions, taken a number of bold steps and we certainly welcome his decision to place Pakistan among the ranks of nations that are helping to deal with the problems of global terrorism."
Rumsfeld and Musharraf met briefly with reporters following a meeting that Rumsfeld characterized as "interesting and productive." They talked about ways to strengthen U.S.- Pakistan military-to military ties and about the political- military situation in South Asia and ongoing military efforts in Afghanistan, he said.
The secretary said Pakistani support for Operation Enduring Freedom has been "important, significant, and it is appreciated."
Rumsfeld said they also discussed efforts to help assure Afghanistan gains a stable, broad-based government. "(We hope) the people of that country can be freed of the war and conflict, drought and starvation and problems they've faced for so many years," he said.
Musharraf noted that he is paying his first visit to Washington and the Pentagon, but noted DoD's briefing room is quite familiar to him. "It's my pleasure to be standing at this rostrum that I've been seeing on the television so frequently," he quipped.
Pakistan and the United States have enjoyed very close military ties, Musharraf told reporters. "It is my pleasure to revive the same degree of relationship again with the United States." Pakistan and the United States have cooperated successfully in military actions in the past, he said, in Somalia and in other U.N. missions abroad.
"It is Pakistan's desire to increase the level of cooperation with the United States in all fields of military activity," Musharraf said.
Pakistan is cooperating in Afghanistan by exchanging intelligence and information, providing logistical support and making available Pakistani air space, he said. "This cooperation has seen excellent interaction again between the two forces," he continued, and Pakistan looks forward to reinforcing it in the future.
Pakistan hasn't talked reciprocation for its support, Musharraf said, but he's glad the United States understands his nation's "concerns" and "shortcomings" and that U.S. officials are discussing a "debt-write off." He said he would not discuss details until they're officially announced.
Asked about Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's leader shed no light on the whereabouts of the terrorist leader.
"My assessment only can be as good or bad as yours," Musharraf told an Associated Press reporter. "I would certainly think that he is in Afghanistan either dead or alive."