Can Mullen get Pakistan to shut down its terrorist havens?
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Pakistan Tuesday to try to soothe old tensions. Pakistan distrusts US aims in Afghanistan, which makes it a less-than-perfect partner.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s top military officer, is seeking to reassure Pakistan's military and civilian leadership that the Afghanistan surge is part of a long-term commitment to the region – not just a short-term fix.Skip to next paragraph
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Mullen arrived here Tuesday for his 14th trip as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telling the Pakistani military that the US seeks to reverse years of what one senior official called “mistrust and betrayal.” But Pakistan remains wary.
In particular, many Pakistanis feel that the US will abandon Afghanistan before the mission is accomplished, leaving Pakistan to pick up the pieces. They say that US commitment to the region has waxed hot and cold during the past two decades. They typically cite the 1980s, when the US funded the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, then ignored the country as it fell in chaos and civil war after the Soviets left.
Mullen knows that he must overcome this deep skepticism of US intentions if he is to get Pakistan to cooperate fully in destroying the insurgency along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“The lack of trust between our countries – there are a lot of reasons for that and I actually understand them,” Mullen told an audience of military officers at the National Defense University in Islamabad Tuesday evening. “One of my goals would be to … set the course of our relationship on a steady one, on a consistent one, and on a positive one.”
Mullen’s visit here, part of a whistle stop tour through two war zones, followed one Monday by Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US Central Command. The visits highlight Pakistan's importance. Al Qaeda and other militant groups have established refuge in Pakistan and use the porous border to stage attacks against US and coalition forces inside Afghanistan.
The US has pressed Pakistan to go after these insurgent groups but has faced resistance. The insurgents attacking US forces in Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban) are different from those attacking Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban), and the Pakistan Army has said it must prioritize operations against the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban are suspected of being responsible for a car bomb near a lawmaker’s home in Punjab that killed as many as 33 people Tuesday.