A top US official has expressed confidence that the United States and Pakistan can patch up their differences, stressing that restoring the strained relationship was critical to long-term progress in Afghanistan.
"Ultimately, we can't win the war in Afghanistan without being able to win in our relationship with Pakistan as well," US Defence Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday.
"I think it is going to be important, as we are able to move and progress in our efforts in Afghanistan, that we continue to do outreach in Pakistan," he said.
"It is essential to stability in that region that we not only achieve a peaceful resolution with regards to Afghanistan, but that we are able to develop a more stable relationship with Pakistan as well," Panetta said.
"If that region is ever going to find peace, it is going to happen not only by achieving stability in Afghanistan, but also by achieving some degree of stability in Pakistan as well."
The US relationship with Pakistan has been "difficult and complicated," Panetta conceded. "But it is an important relationship, and it is one we have to continue to work at."
Pakistan has provided important cooperation to the United States, Panetta said. "At the same time, we have had some serious difficulties with regards to some of the operations that involve groups in the FATA [federally administered tribal areas] and groups along the border," he said.
US-Pakistan relations have become increasingly strained since the May 2 raid killing Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, and intensified after a Nov 26 NATO air strike near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.