Despite challenges in ties, US,Pakistan anti-terror interests continue to align : Panetta

By Ali Imran  

Map of Pakistan

Map of Pakistan (Photo credit: Omer Wazir)


WASHINGTON, Nov 21  : Defense Secretary Leon Panther has said despite challenges in the bilateral relationship, the United States and Pakistan continue to have aligned interests in defeating terrorists and that Washington would pursue defense cooperation with Islamabad on that common basis.

Speaking at a Washington think tank, Panetta noted that in Afghanistan and Pakistan, prolonged military and intelligence operations have significantly weakened al-Qaida but saw the need to maintain pressure on the group.

That means degrading the terrorists’ senior leadership, dismantling their organizational capabilities, remaining vigilant to ensure the threat does not reconstitute, and working to build the capacity of U.S. partners, including Pakistan, to confront these shared threats, he added.

“Despite challenges in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Pakistan,” Panetta said, “one area in which our national interests continue to align is defeating the terrorists on Pakistan soil that threaten both of us.”

“We remain committed to pursuing defense cooperation based on these shared interest,” he said at the Center for a New American Security.

Panetta pledged continued U.S. engagement with Pakistan and a sustained commitment to Afghanistan in the years ahead. He acknowledged the fact that al-Qaeda linked militants eye northeastern Afghan areas of Kunar and Nooristanas a viable haven.

English: Official portrait of Leon Panetta as ...

English: Official portrait of Leon Panetta as United States Secretary of Defense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He said in many ways success in Afghanistan is linked to Pakistan eliminating militant hideouts on its side of the Afghan border but noted right now the key is readying an Afghan force that can assume security responsibility.

The Afghans, he said, will be in the lead throughout the country for security in mid 2013.

“Afghans will ultimately full responsibility for security by the end of 2014.  After 2014, the United States has made clear through a strategic partnership agreement, that we will maintain an enduring presence, and a long-term commitment to Afghan security.  And NATO made a similar commitment to a post 2014 Afghanistan at the Chicago summit last May.

“All of this sends a very simple, and a very powerful message to al-Qaeda, to the Taliban, and to the violent extremist groups who want to regain a safe haven in Afghanistan: we are not going anywhere.  Our commitment to Afghanistan is long term, and you cannot wait us out.  This is important, because al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other associated forces under pressure in Pakistan, continue to view the rugged terrain of northeastern Afghanistan, especially Kunar and Nuristan provinces, as a viable safe haven.  A relentless, and effective counterterrorism effort, conducted by our Special Operations Forces this year, made clear that we will not allow them to regain that sanctuary.”

The defense secretary said the U..S must prevent the emergence of new safe havens for al-Qaeda elsewhere in the world that could be used to attack the United States, or its interests.

He hinted at widening the war against al-Qaeda.

“The last decade of war has shown that coordinated efforts to share intelligence, to conduct operations with partners, are critical to making sure that al-Qaeda has no place to hide.  We will expand these efforts, including through support and partnership with governments in transition in the Middle East and North Africa.”

This campaign against al-Qaeda will largely take place outside declared combat zones, using a small footprint approach, that includes precision operations, partnered activities with foreign special forces operations, and capacity building so that partner countries can be more effective in combating terrorism on their own, he said.

“Wherever possible, we will work through, and with local partners, supporting them with the intelligence and resources they need in order to deter these common threats. “





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