Mullen: Meeting Reaffirms U.S.-Pakistan Ties
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 21, 2011 Reaffirmation of the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries was the most important aspect of his meeting last night with his Pakistani counterpart, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
The meeting at Army House in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad was the first chance Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Pakistani Gen. Asfaq Parvez Kayani have had to meet since the Raymond Davis arrest earlier this year chilled relations between the two countries.
Davis, a CIA contractor, shot and killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan. He was released after the payment of compensation to the families of the men he killed, and the release sparked protests throughout Pakistan that were heightened by a U.S. drone strike in the federally administered tribal area.
“Certainly, we understand we’ve been through a pretty rough period,” Mullen said to reporters traveling with him. “I feel that the relationship that we had had a lot to do with our ability to get through this rough period.”
Significant challenges remain in the relationship, and he and Kayani brought those up in their meeting, Mullen said. Before the meeting, the chairman talked to Pakistani reporters about the danger the Haqqani network poses to coalition forces in Afghanistan.
It’s fairly well known that the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has had a long relationship with the Haqqani network, the admiral said during his interview with the leading Pakistani newspaper, Dawn.
“Addressing the network is, from my perspective, critical to the solution set in Afghanistan,” he said. “The reality is the Haqqani [network] is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans, killing coalition partners. I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The admiral would not discuss specifics of his conversations with Kayani. He meets at least quarterly with the Pakistani military leader, he said, and those conversations remain private.
Generally, the admiral said, the Pakistani military is in a difficult fight with extremists in Mohmond province, its third campaign against extremists there.
“What’s different this time is the cross-border coordination with our forces, which has made a significant difference,” Mullen said. “It represents a level of coordination that’s better than it’s ever been.”
Still, not all is brightness and light, the chairman acknowledged. The Pakistani force has been in a tough fight there for years. “He’s got those challenges of rotation and dwell time and so on,” the admiral said of his Pakistani counterpart. “It continues to evolve.”
Kayani is working with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on campaigns for the future, Mullen said. The Pakistani military is stressed, he added, but has proven to be resilient.
“I think about us in our 10th year of war, and the resilience piece has been pretty incredible,” the admiral said. “His military, but particularly his army, has also has shown a level of resilience as well.”
Kayani is focused on the internal threat in Pakistan. The men discussed the recent suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed almost 60 people.
“We’re both encouraged by the recent meetings that Pakistan and India have had, as well as those that are scheduled,” Mullen said. “I’ve said more than once that resolving the Kashmir border dispute [between Pakistan and India] has the potential to unlock the whole region for stability.”
The chairman said he and Kayani also talked about training and assistance for the Pakistani military, the political process in Afghanistan and about reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“When [Kayani] has told me he would do something, he has done something,” Mullen said. “We’re a little bit more impatient in the timing of that execution. In Afghanistan, we want to get this right for the future, and we don’t want to see the relationship break down.”
From Islamabad, Mullen moved on to the Afghan capital of Kabul, where he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Petraeus. He will visit Iraq and Germany before returning to Washington.