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‘Betrayed Pakistan doesn’t trust us’

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WASHINGTON: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said US and Pakistan can resolve issues that led to the closure of a major supply route for US and Nato operations in Afghanistan, and he hasn’t yet seen any major impact from the closure.

The US military has analysed the situation to determine what the effects would be if the route was closed for a longer period, the Admiral told reporters between speaking engagements this week in Tucson, Arizona, but officials are hoping such a closure can be averted, the Pentagon reported on Sunday.

“I believe we will figure a way to work our way through this,” Mullen said, emphasising Pakistanís importance as a strategic partner. Mullen, who has visited Pakistan 20 times since taking the top military post in 2007, said the United States had been working to rebuild Pakistani trust. How thatís resolved, hesaid, will go a long way towards shaping the future US-Pakistani relationship.

Pakistan closed the crossing at Torkham Gate along its northwestern border with Afghanistan after Nato helicopters ‘mistakenly’ killed several Pakistani border guards September 30, the Pentagon news report said.

“We left them in a dark hole from about 1990 to 2002, and they donít trust us,” the US military leader said. “We are trying to rebuild that trust. And itís basically coming, but you donít rebuild it overnight,” Mullen remarked.

This effort, Mullen noted, comes at a time of enormous challenge for Pakistan, whose border with Afghanistan, he claimed, is the epicenter of terrorism. This summer’s unprecedented monsoon flooding – that submerged one fifth of the country’s land and affected around 21 million people – has compounded Pakistanís struggles.

They have just been devastated, said Mullen, who toured flood-stricken areas of Pakistan last month with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff. Meanwhile, the American military continues to provide relief to flood victims in northwestern Pakistan. US military aid operations began August 5 with Army helicopters from Afghanistan delivering supplies and rescuing those trapped by flooding.

Marine helicopters from the USS Peleliu replaced the Army aircraft, and together they have delivered more than 8 million pounds or relief supplies, reported Department of Defense spokesman Marine Col. David Lapan.

Air Force C-130s and C-17s have been delivering aid since Aug. 16. As of last week, airmen have delivered more than 5.5 million pounds of aid. This brings the total to almost 13.7 million pounds of aid, Lapan said.

The US military aircraft have rescued more than 20,000 displaced Pakistanis, the Pentagon said. Flood relief efforts continue, Lapan said. It has not been curbed, but there are ongoing discussions about what the need is, because there are now roads open that were not previously.

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