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Leon E Panetta Says Stable Ties with Pakistan Critical to Afghan War

Posted by on Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 9:43
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has voiced confidence that the United States and Pakistan can patch up their differences, emphasizing that “ultimately, we can’t win the war in Afghanistan without being able to win in our relationship with Pakistan as well.”Leon E Panetta

He said restoring the strained relationship with the United States critical to long-term progress in Afghanistan. “I think it is going to be important, as we are able to move and progress in our efforts in Afghanistan, that we continue to do outreach in Pakistan,” he said, according to Pentagon.

The defense secretary spoke in the backdrop of November 26 NATO strikes on Mohmand border posts, which claimed lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers, causing a sharp decline in Islamabad-Washington relations.

“It is essential to stability in that region that we not only achieve a peaceful resolution with regards to Afghanistan, but that we are able to develop a more stable relationship with Pakistan as well,” Panetta said.

“If that region is ever going to find peace, it is going to happen not only by achieving stability in Afghanistan, but also by achieving some degree of stability in Pakistan as well,” he added.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan has been difficult and complicated, Panetta conceded. “But it is an important relationship, and it is one we have to continue to work at.”

The defense secretary noted that Pakistan has provided important cooperation to the United States, over the years.

“At the same time, we have had some serious difficulties with regards to some of the operations that involve groups in the FATA [federally administered tribal areas] and groups along the border,” he remarked.

Relations between the two countries soured this year after the May 2 raid that took down Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

The U.S. Central Command is investigating the incident. “A number of interviews have been conducted, to determine factors involved in the incident”, Panetta said. He expressed hope that the investigation will shed light on exactly what happened, but said he has not yet received an update on any findings.

Meanwhile, Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, reports that operations are continuing to secure the border areas.

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