Pakistan, US can’t afford to let relationship come apart: Mullen

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KABUL/ISLAMABAD – US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said before setting out for a trip to Islamabad from Afghanistan on Tuesday that Pakistan and the US agreed they could not afford to let security ties unravel, but said the US’ discomfort with elements of the ISI maintaining ties with the Haqqani network was an issue he would raise again in talks on Wednesday with Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
To iron out their differences, Pakistan and the US have launched a two-pronged dialogue involving military and diplomatic channels, with Mullen arriving here today for talks with the top brass of the Pakistan Army while Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir left for Washington on Tuesday to meet US authorities.
Mullen acknowledged persistent strains on the two countries’ relationship. “We’re working our way through the relationships that the ISI has with the Haqqani network and the strain that that creates,” Mullen said. “I’ll see General Kayani here shortly and these are issues I address with him every single time we engage. And I certainly intend to (raise that) this week.”
“I think that all of us believe that we cannot afford to let this relationship come apart,” Mullen said. “It’s just too dangerous. It’s too dangerous, in each country, for each country. It’s too dangerous for the region,” he added.
Asked about Pakistani demands to trim the number of US military trainers, who Pakistan fears could be involved in covert action, Mullen said he still saw continued US training support in the future. He did not offer specifics and said the matter still needed to be ironed out.
Meanwhile, Bashir left for Washington to hold talks with US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman on the revival of the “Pak-US Strategic Dialogue” that was suspended in the wake of a serious diplomatic row between Islamabad and Washington over the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis.
Bashir will hold formal talks with Grossman on April 21 and April 22, and he will also meet Hillary Clinton and others. “The two-pronged dialogue between the US and Pakistan involving military and diplomatic channels is aimed at bridging the gap between the positions of two states on very important issues, which have had a deeply negative impact on their ties,” said an official, who wished to remain unnamed.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter also called on President Asif Ali Zardari here on Tuesday. The official said President Zardari once again asked for drone attacks to be stopped, as well as for a reduction in the number of CIA operatives, in his talks with the American ambassador.