News / USA

White House Reiterates Support for Pakistan, Afghanistan

US and NATO fuel trucks burning in Shikarpur, southern Pakistan, 01 Oct 2010
US and NATO fuel trucks burning in Shikarpur, southern Pakistan, 01 Oct 2010

The White House says President Barack Obama still considers Pakistan a strong ally in the fight against extremist forces.  Comments by Mr. Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, came Monday as the United States and Pakistan continued to discuss the closure of a key border crossing and amid concern about attacks on NATO supply convoys.

At a White House news briefing, Gibbs was asked about the attacks on NATO fuel tanker trucks, four of which occurred since Pakistan closed the northwestern Khyber Pass Torkhum border crossing last week.

The attacks followed what NATO says was a self-defense hot-pursuit action by helicopters.  NATO expressed regret over the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers; a joint investigation is continuing.

Gibbs said it is his understanding that concerns relating to the border closure were the subject of discussions at the State Department between U.S. and Pakistani diplomats, adding that those talks were close to producing some results.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's attack on 20 tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan, calling it a response to U.S. drone strikes.  Pakistani officials say one such strike killed eight militants, including some that officials describe as German nationals.  The United States does not confirm drone strikes, which Pakistan says is a violation of its sovereignty.

Although he declined to comment on the latest suspected U.S. drone attack, Press Secretary Gibbs responded this way when asked whether the U.S. still believes that Pakistan and Afghanistan are strong allies in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

"We have strong and important partnerships with Afghanistan [and] in Pakistan - a strong ally in common pursuits to address extremism and the threat that it poses," said Robert Gibbs.

As when asked previously about the U.S. view of Pakistani cooperation, Gibbs cited what he called the renewed effort that Pakistan has made in recent years to address the extremist threat - one that affects Pakistan and the United States.

Gibbs was also asked whether the Obama administration believes a majority of Americans support the sacrifices the United States is making in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"I think that the American people understand very much what is at stake and the important mission that we have over there," he said. "Obviously, there are political viewpoints that vary across the spectrum.  The president, though, understands what we must do in addressing the threat to those countries and to us."

At the State Department, spokesman P. J. Crowley told reporters that the United States is "quite satisfied" with the level of cooperation and the coordination it has with Pakistan.  He echoed Gibbs's comments about Pakistan's recognition of the threat that extremists pose to its stability.

On the question of the closure of the major border crossing, Crowley stressed that the United States and NATO have multiple supply routes into Afghanistan, and he said the flow of materiel continues.   

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