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Mullen Says Meetings in Pakistan Strengthen Military Relationships

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2008 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff returned today from an overseas trip that included meetings with Pakistani leaders in an effort to reinforce the military-to-military relationship between the two countries.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met twice with Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and with Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen. Tariq Majeed in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Mullen and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson also traveled to Peshawar, where they boarded Pakistani helicopters and overflew training camps for the government’s Frontier Corps.

“We had good meetings with [Kayani] and discussed a wide range of topics,” Mullen said in an interview with reporters traveling with him today. “We clearly are continuing to look across the full range of military-to-military issues.” The chairman would not comment further, saying his discussions with Pakistani leaders are best kept private.

Mullen praised the work of Army Maj. Gen James R. Helmly, the U.S. defense representative in Pakistan, who is leaving the post soon after two years on the job. As a lieutenant general, Helmly volunteered to revert to major general to take the crucial position.

“He’s done extraordinary work in relationship building, and in setting up a near-term and long-term strategic approach to partnership,” Mullen said. “I think we will reap the benefits of his efforts for years to come, and I am really indebted to him.”

In a statement issued in Pakistan, Mullen said that Pakistan has made strides in its efforts against extremists, but that much work remains.

“The United States military stands ready to assist in any way the Pakistani government finds appropriate,” he said in the statement. “Pakistan and the United States remain steadfast allies, and Pakistan’s military is fighting bravely against terrorism.”

This was Mullen’s third trip to Pakistan since February, and it came at a touchy time in U.S.-Pakistani relations. Pakistan held elections in February, but the new government – installed in March – still has internal divisions.

“Pakistan is still in the nascent stages of setting up a new government,” Mullen said. The government is “trying to push its way through some pretty good challenges.”

Pakistan remains a good friend in the war on terror, Mullen said. “In all my conversations, they are very focused in going after the extremist threat,” he said.

Mullen received an aerial view of the training bases that the Pakistani government will use to train its Frontier Corps. The corps patrols and maintains peace inside the federally administered tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. It is made up of local tribesmen.

“They are making progress in getting the facilities in shape,” the chairman said. “They have a plan for the forces, and there is a train-and-equip aspect to this.”

But the bottom line, he noted, is that it is the Pakistani government’s initiative.

“We’re supportive of it, but it’s their business,” Mullen said. “We’ve engaged with them, and they are looking at a very positive result. But it’s going to take time.”

The Frontier Corps is a paramilitary force that includes regular army officers. The government has put in place proposals to improve the training of the force, make it more professional and expand it to about 100,000 members. Most of the rank-and-file Frontier Corps personnel are members of Pashtu tribes and have ties on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The famous Khyber Rifles is part of the Frontier Corps.

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