U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States is prepared to expand defense cooperation with Pakistan as quickly as that country wants, particularly in the wake of continuing attacks inside Pakistan by groups linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Gates, who arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday morning, told reporters during his flight that the United States welcomes Pakistan's increased operations against militants in its autonomous tribal areas near the Afghan border, and offered as much assistance as the Pakistanis want.
"We are prepared to move ahead with that relationship and cooperation just as fast as they are prepared to accept it," he said.
The United States has long called on Pakistan to be more aggressive against the militants in the border region. Gates said the Pakistani government and military have done more than any U.S. officials would have expected, or believed possible, a year or so ago.
Still, U.S. officials want Pakistan to take even more action against the militants, and the secretary said recent attacks might lead to that.
"The more they get attacked internally, just like this terrible attack in Rawalpindi at the mosque, the more open they may be to additional help from us. But we are prepared to expand that relationship at any pace that they are prepared to accept," he said.
Gates said Pakistan is in a "serious fight" with the insurgents and will receive all of the support the United States can give.