U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida have found safe haven in Pakistan and represent a threat to both the United States and Pakistan. Admiral Mullen made the remarks after meeting with top government and military officials in Pakistan. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Islamabad.
Admiral Mullen held talks with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The talks focused on the growing concern that Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists are using the country's remote tribal areas to train for attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and overseas.
"They have found safe havens here and it is in those safe havens that we are now very focused on," he said. "The challenge that we all have in addressing that threat is represented, I think very clearly, in the kind of upsurge in violence, the change in tactics. This is a very deadly, lethal enemy that will not cease and that is why we have to work it very hard together.
Admiral Mullen also pointed to the rapidly increasing number of suicide bombings in Pakistan's cities that are alarming the population here.
He indicated such terrorist activity represents a long-term threat for both Pakistan and the United States.
"Look at the number of attacks, look at suicide bombers, certainly the threat is going up and we are both concerned about that," he added. "Certainly in my meetings today all the leadership expressed concern about being able to eliminate that threat over time. This is a threat that is not going away. It is a mutual threat and one that we together are very intent on working our way through, both in the near term and the long term."
Admiral Mullen did not repeat recent offers by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to send American troops into Pakistan to combat the terrorists, an offer that the government in Islamabad has rejected.
The head of the Joint Chiefs said the United States will always respect Pakistan's sovereignty, and will continue to provide training in counter-terrorism tactics to the nation's military.
"Some of the discussions that we had certainly centered on the training assistance that we are able to provide and without going into great detail with respect to that, it really is in that area that we are assisting," he explained. "I am committed to continuing to do that, and it is really important to emphasize only as requested by the leadership of the Pakistani military."
Regarding Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Admiral Mullen said he is comfortable that the bombs are secure and is not concerned that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, the United States has provided $10 billion in aid to Pakistan.
About half that money has gone to reimburse Pakistan's military for operations related to the war on terror.