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American Forces Press Service

Strategic Dialogue Advances U.S.-Pakistan Relations, Goals

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2010 – The Third U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue is underway here, and officials expect to discuss the Pakistan floods, U.S. aid to the region, and shared U.S.-Pakistani goals.

The dialogue is a way for both countries to better work together and inculcate trust, said Frank Ruggiero, deputy director for Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is the third strategic dialogue between the countries this year. As part of the dialogue, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen are to meet with Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani at the Pentagon tomorrow. U.S. and Pakistani defense leaders also are scheduled to meet to discuss American military aid, counterinsurgency strategy, and flood relief.

Partnership with Pakistan is essential to advancing U.S. strategic goals in the region and South Asia, Ruggiero said at the State Department today.

“The strategic dialogue actually provides us the mechanism to achieve our common goals and to build trust in the relationship,” he said. “We’re coming through a period of tension in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and the strategic dialogue provides a venue to really exchange views with the Pakistanis on a strategic level and to move beyond these tensions in the relationship.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi are leading the dialogue for their respective sides. “They have personally invested a lot of their efforts to redefine the bilateral relationship between the United States and the government of Pakistan into a mature, sustained, long-term economic and political partnership,” Ruggiero said.

U.S. officials view the dialogue as a way to strengthen democratic institutions in Pakistan, foster economic development, expand opportunity, and defeat extremist groups who threaten both nations’ common security, Ruggiero said.

The dialogue is about more than just defense and humanitarian aid. Conversations cover 13 topics ranging from agriculture to energy.

One priority discussion will be U.S. aid to the flood-ravaged nation. “It's really hard to overstate the impact of the floods,” Ruggiero said. More than 1,800 Pakistanis died in the disaster, and more than 20 million were affected by the monsoon-driven rains that pushed the Indus River and its tributaries out of their banks.

“This will have long-term economic, political, and infrastructure challenges for the government of Pakistan,” he said. “Responding to a crisis of this magnitude would be difficult for any government, so we are trying to work with the Pakistanis to help them address this significant natural disaster.”

The United States has been the first and the foremost in providing assistance to the flood victims of Pakistan, providing $390 million in immediate relief and recovery efforts. Also, U.S. military has provided airlift that rescued more than 23,000 people, and delivered food and supplies to hundreds of thousands.

“We continue to work very closely with the government of Pakistan, its civil and military leadership, on responding to the floods,” Ruggiero said. “And this is really just another example, our reaction and response to the floods, of the strategic nature of the relationship with Pakistan.”

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