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US, Pakistan Coordinate Military Operations Against Terrorists

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (right) is welcomed to the 3rd Annual U.S. Central Command Chiefs of Defense Conference by U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander, USCENTCOM at the Fairfax Hotel, Washington, D.C., 25 Jan 2010

The top U.S. military officer says the United States and Pakistan are working together more closely to fight terrorist groups whose operations span the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Admiral Mike Mullen spoke in Washington on Monday at a meeting of senior officers from the region, sponsored by the U.S. military.

Admiral Mullen called on the military officers from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other regional powers to work together more closely because, he said, the terrorist groups are cooperating more in their efforts to hurt those countries.

"I would almost call it the harmonization of the terrorists, the collaboration of the terrorists," he said. "These groups that didn't work with each other at all, now are more and more collaborative. And that requires us to be much more harmonious."

Mullen said the U.S. and Pakistani militaries are already cooperating more, working to avoid misunderstanding about troop movements and activities in the border zone, and to ensure that their operations complement each other, rather than just push the terrorists back and forth across the Afghan border.

"We are now reviewing campaign plans together, so we can see what those plans are and how we can best make them work together," said the admiral.

Mullen also called for more exchanges among the militaries represented at the meeting. He particularly praised the Indian representative, Vice Army Chief Lieutenant General P.C. Bhardwaj, for attending the event.

The admiral urged all of the senior officers in attendance to avoid the kind of public disputes that have hurt regional relations in the past.

"I think it's really important that we work as hard as we can with each other, and that any kind of public accusations or public finger pointing, quite frankly, that does not serve any of us well," he said. "That doesn't mean we won't have disagreements. But I hope that we can do that privately, and not publicly."

Mullen also stressed the U.S. intention to develop long-term relations with the countries of Central and South Asia - a theme also stressed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his visit to the region last week. The admiral said countries in the region are understandably waiting to see the United States demonstrate that commitment over time, and to see the outcome of its effort to defeat the Taliban and help establish an effective government in Afghanistan.