Pace's Pakistan Visit Meant to Build Better Bridges Between Nations
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 20, 2006 The top U.S. general arrived here today to meet with his Pakistani counterpart and U.S. troops providing assistance in an earthquake-devastated area of the country.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace (center), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reviews a Pakistani honor guard in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 20. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace will meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ehsan Ul Haq, and with U.S. officials based here. "I'm going to do a lot of listening," Pace said during an interview aboard his aircraft. "I hope to find ways that we can both be better partners, to do things that are good for both of our countries."
Pace said Pakistan is a strategically placed ally for the United States. The country has helped immeasurably in the war on the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and has worked to close the border to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters and sympathizers, he said.
The Pakistani military is taking more action against anti-Afghan forces trying to use Pakistan as a base, Pace said. "It's important that I understand from them what they are doing, how they are doing it, and how we might support them in training or otherwise," he said. "I'm not going in with any presumptions."
The chairman said this trip also will continue a dialogue that was furthered by President Bush's trip here earlier this month.
Pace will speak to American servicemembers who deployed here following the October 2005 earthquake near Muzaffarabad that killed an estimated 75,000 Pakistanis. Engineers, Seabees, airmen, water purification personnel and more deployed to save lives.
The U.S. military effort is winding down now, he said, but 200 to 300 Americans still are helping to fly eight helicopters. At its height, the U.S. effort had about 1,200 American servicemembers flying 24 choppers. The servicemembers airlifted thousands of tons of supplies into the stricken area and airlifted thousands of victims out. In addition, a mobile army surgical hospital deployed to the region and treated thousands.
"We responded to the earthquake because we should respond to that human tragedy," Pace said. "By getting in there, I think we've demonstrated the true nature of our country, which is one with a huge heart and great compassion."