WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top uniformed U.S. military officer said on Friday the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is "vexing and yet vital" but there can be no solution to the conflict in the region without Islamabad.
Admiral Mike Mullen, who has publicly criticized Pakistan in recent days for ties to Islamic extremist groups, made the comments in a speech marking the end of his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mullen said he told his successor, General Martin Dempsey, that the war in Afghanistan would be his toughest challenge but that he should remember the importance of Pakistan and "try and do a better job than I did with that vexing and yet vital relationship."
"I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership," said Mullen, who sometimes referred to himself as Pakistan's best friend in the U.S. military.
The conciliatory remarks came a week after he told a U.S. Senate committee that the Taliban-linked Haqqani network was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's military intelligence agency. The remark sparked a flare-up in tensions with Pakistan.