By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 30, 2011 – Navy Adm. Mike Mullen today said he came away from his recent meeting with Pakistani leaders convinced of their commitment to work with the United States on security, intelligence and development.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the comments on the network morning shows this Memorial Day.
Mullen said the May 27 meeting with Pakistani leaders went well and that the tenseness of the meeting was overstated by the media. “It was a very frank meeting; it’s a very difficult time and yet a very important relationship,” he said.
Mullen and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Pakistan to reaffirm the commitment on the part of the United States to work with Pakistan and to send a message about the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
The chairman said the two sides discussed the full range of concerns including dealing with the Haqqani network that is operating from Pakistan to kill U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. “We were frank with them, and they were frank with us,” he said. “The Pakistani army is launching an introspective look and review, and I think we’re going to have to get through that.
“I did hear from the military leadership their continued commitment to look ahead and work with us,” he continued. “We think that’s important. We have shared interests in terms of the terrorist threat that is there, in terms of dealing with a very difficult border and looking for a way ahead that will create a more peaceful and stable country.”
The American people need to understand the tough fight Pakistan has made, the chairman said. The Pakistani military has had thousands killed and roughly 10,000 wounded in the battle against terrorists. In addition, terrorists have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians.
Mullen has made more than 25 trips to Pakistan to meet with leaders including Pakistan army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. He has been working since he took office to overcome what he calls the “trust gap” between the United States and Pakistan. The U.S. military raid to Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden dealt a blow to those efforts.
Still, both sides agree the death of bin Laden was a positive step, Mullen said. Overall, al-Qaida is not the organization it was 10 years ago when it struck the United States on 9/11, he said.
“They’ve been significantly reduced in terms of their overall ability, but they still plan and want to kill as many Americans and Westerners that they possibly can,” he said. “We need to make sure they cannot do that.”
Mullen was quick to point out that the United States has seen no evidence that Pakistan’s senior government leaders had any knowledge of bin Laden’s presence there. American and Pakistani leaders do, however, believe the al-Qaida terrorist had a support network in the country.
Pakistan is important to U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and the chairman said there is reason for hope in that country, despite a difficult fighting season ahead this summer.
“We will continue to sustain losses as we’ve done in the last few days,” he said. “Every one of those is a tragic, tragic loss. That said, I am confident that by the end of the year we will be in a much better position and be able to see much more clearly the longer term potential for a positive outcome.”