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US Quake Relief Effort in Pakistan Coming to an End

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, has formally announced an end to U.S. earthquake relief operations that began last October in Pakistan. But Pace, speaking in the Pakistani capital, refused to discuss with reporters the more urgent problem of continued insurgent violence along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Marine General Peter Pace's visit comes amid rising concerns over a resurgent Taleban movement in Pakistan's remote tribal region near the Afghan border.

Hundreds if not thousands of hard-line Islamic militants have effectively taken over several districts in the North and South Waziristan regions of Pakistan.

U.S. and Afghan leaders have called on the Pakistanis to do more to put down the militants.

There is also growing unhappiness in Islamabad over Washington's proposed peacetime nuclear deal with Pakistan's neighbor and traditional enemy, India.

But, publicly, at least, Pace, who arrived here Monday for a series of private discussions with senior Pakistani officials, is focusing on the positive side of U.S.-Pakistani relations.

On Tuesday he toured Pakistan's devastated quake zone, where U.S. troops are wrapping up a massive six-month relief operation.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the general said the U.S. intervention, in addition to saving thousands of lives, also helped strengthen ties between the two countries.

"After 9/11, when my country was struck by terrorists, Pakistan came to our assistance and your leaders made some courageous decisions on the war on terrorism. So it was only natural that when your country was struck by this devastation, that we should assist you in whatever way we could," he said.

Pace also praised the close coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces operating on the ground in the high-altitude quake zone.

U.S. forces reached the hardest hit areas within 48 hours of last October's deadly tremor.

More than 1,200 soldiers, typically in concert with their local counterparts, set up a series of field hospitals and forward bases to help distribute emergency supplies.

Pakistan's head of relief operations, Major General Muhammad Farooq, thanked Pace for the U.S. response.

"This massive devastation could not have been managed without international support, especially the United States of America," he said. "When your first helicopters flew in from Afghanistan, your Chinooks became a symbol of hope for those people."

The U.S. helicopters flew about 5,000 relief flights and delivered more than 20 million pounds of emergency supplies.

Washington pledged half a billion dollars for Pakistan's recovery effort, and has already provided more than $200 million.

Despite the end of the emergency operations, U.S. officials say they remain 100 percent committed to Pakistan's long-term development.