US, Pak share interest in defeating terrorists: Panetta
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that despite challenges in the bilateral relationship, America and Pakistan share an interest in defeating terrorists and that the US would pursue defence cooperation with Pakistan on that common basis.
"Despite challenges in the bilateral relationship between the United States and Pakistan, one area in which our national interests continue to align is defeating the terrorists on Pakistan soil that threaten both of us," The News quoted Panetta, as saying.
"We remain committed to pursuing defence cooperation based on these shared interest," he added.
Panetta assured continued US engagement with Pakistan and a sustained commitment to Afghanistan in the years ahead. He acknowledged the fact that Al-Qaeda linked militants eye north-eastern Afghan areas of Kunar and Nooristan as a viable haven. He also claimed that in many ways success in Afghanistan is linked to Pakistan eliminating militant hideouts on its side of the Afghan border.
Panetta said the US 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 also 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," he said.
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, Panetta said.