By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 7, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff departed for Pakistan today to discuss security issues with Pakistani military officials, a senior U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters here. Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen also is slated to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson during his visit, Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, the Joint Staff's director of operational planning, said at a Pentagon news conference.
Mullen's mission in Pakistan will be "to build on relationships with his counterparts and to gain a better understanding of Pakistan's security challenges, which ultimately improve our vital cooperative efforts in fighting terrorists that threaten the stability of both Pakistan and Afghanistan," Sherlock explained.
The Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday requested Pentagon input regarding the effectiveness of U.S.-funded Pakistani military operations against reported Taliban, al Qaeda and other-insurgent activity along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mullen were among several Pentagon senior officials who testified at yesterday's Senate hearing. Gates told legislators that U.S. military assistance has supported about 90 Pakistani army operations involving about 100,000 troops against insurgents operating in northwest Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas.
The senators concurred with Gates' suggestion that Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, prepare a report on U.S. funding for Pakistani military operations targeting the insurgents. It's expected that Fallon would provide the report sometime in March. Mullen told legislators at the Senate hearing that he'd discussed U.S.-funded Pakistani army operations with the CENTCOM commander.
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war against global terrorism, Sherlock said today at the Pentagon. The United States and Pakistan, he added, have maintained a "wide variety" of discussions.
The general noted that the United States has a senior defense representative in Pakistan. "We have a constant dialogue and work with their military and with their government officials every day to share information (and) to offer our assistance where necessary," he said.
Pakistan has yet to request U.S. military help, Sherlock said. However, he added, U.S. special operations forces could help Pakistan develop military capacities to confront insurgents operating in the country's northwest region bordering Afghanistan.
"At this point, our goal is to look at Pakistan to help them grow in capacity and to assist where they would request us to assist," Sherlock said.