U.S. must keep strategic ties with Pakistan: Clinton

Reuters News
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Posted: May 26, 2011 7:54 AM
U.S. must keep strategic ties with Pakistan: Clinton

By Arshad Mohammed

PARIS (Reuters) - Working with Pakistan is a strategic necessity for the United States, even as Washington presses Islamabad to act more decisively on counter-terrorism, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.

Pakistan had been a good partner in international efforts to fight terrorism, she said, despite anger in the United States over the discovery that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been living there for years before U.S. commandos killed him in a May 2 raid.

"We do have a set of expectations that we are looking for the Pakistani government to meet, but I want to underscore in conclusion it is not as though they have been on the sidelines," Clinton told a news conference in Paris. She gave no details. Members of the Congress have threatened to cut off billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan out of frustration at perceived complicity with or reluctance to eradicate radical Islamist militants.

But Clinton said critics should take a longer-term strategic view of the Pakistanis.

"They have been actively engaged in their own bitter fight with these terrorists, extremists who target indiscriminately people from all walks of life, all ages, and we are going to look to put our partnership on as strong a foundation going forward as possible," she said.

The "international community" had been able to kill more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anywhere else in the world, Clinton said.

"This could not have been done without Pakistani cooperation," she said.

The United States was "ready and willing" to help Pakistan in its own fight against terrorism on its home soil, Clinton added.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have been strained since the raid by Navy Seals on bin Laden's hideout in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani authorities.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and leading Democratic Senator John Kerry have visited Islamabad since the raid to press Washington's demands for better cooperation against al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban fighters and other militants focused on Kashmir and India.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Arshad Mohammed, Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Myra MacDonald)