WASHINGTON: After weeks of a public spat between Pakistan and the United States over the Haqqani network, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that “the situation in Pakistan is likely to remain volatile.”
Addressing an audience at an event titled Defence Priorities: Today and Tomorrow, organised by the Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars, Panetta said that the United States needed to maintain an enduring relationship with Afghanistan, so that they could together fight against al Qaeda and continue to deny them safe havens.
“We cannot resolve issues of Afghanistan without solving issues of Pakistan,” Panetta said in response to a question. “A stable and secure Pakistan is vital for a secure Afghanistan,” he added. “Diplomatic efforts need to continue to work with Pakistan.”
The defence secretary conceded that the relationship with Pakistan was difficult and said that while Pakistan had cooperated in efforts against al Qaeda and continued to work with the United States, “we have great differences, especially with regard to the relationship they maintain with some militant groups.”
Panetta added that there was a need for Pakistan and India to work on resolving their differences. He said Pakistan was also stockpiling its nuclear arsenal, and highlighted how Iran and North Korea remained threats due to their nuclear programmes.
Panetta’s speech largely focused on the need to have a military in the 21st century with the growing fiscal crisis in the United States.
“Our job is not to accept destiny, but to create destiny,” said Panetta, adding that his job was that the US emerged out of this crisis with a strong military force, while the country maintains economic strength.
Panetta also warned against across the board cuts in military spending and said that there was a need to not repeat mistakes of the past.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.