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Gates: Afghan-Pakistan Border Jihad 'Epicenter'

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells Senate Afghan-Pakistan border 'epicenter of extremist jihadism'

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the "epicenter of extremist jihadism."

Testifying to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday about the new Afghan war strategy, Gates underscored the importance of stabilizing the region.  He also acknowledged past U.S. mistakes. 

Gates said nuclear-armed Pakistan is skeptical about whether Washington is a reliable strategic partner, because of its withdrawal from the region in the 1990s, and its subsequent break in military relations with Islamabad. 

He said the U.S. must change that perception.

Gates called the region the "historic place" where native and foreign Muslims defeated one superpower, the Soviet Union.  He said if the United States appears to suffer a similar defeat, it would have severe consequences for America and the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also testified about the importance of Pakistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.  She said that "unlike in the past," the United States and its allies will have an enduring commitment to the region.

Clinton said the international community is expanding its support to Pakistan, and that the U.S. will increase its civilian presence there.

The United States has been conducting covert air strikes on insurgent targets in tribal areas in Pakistan.  U.S. forces also are training Pakistani troops in counter-insurgency techniques.

In the Pakistani capital Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the navy headquarters. Two navy personnel died, and at least 11 other people were wounded.

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