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Dangerous to cut off Pakistan now: Mullen

June 03, 2011 15:58 IST

A top United States military commander has warned that it would be "dangerous" to abandon Pakistan now as he feared this would lead to instability in the region witnessed in the 1990s.

Admitting that US-Pakistan relations were going through "pretty rough times", Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I think the worst thing we could do would be cut them off," BBC reported.

Mullen feared it would be a repeat of the instability in the 1990s, when the US distanced itself from the region after US and Pakistani-backed Islamic guerrillas drove out Soviet forces in Afghanistan. If the United States again scaled back involvement, "10 years from now, 20 years from now, we go back and it's much more intense and it's much more dangerous," he said.

"We're just not living in a world where we can afford to be unengaged in a place like this," he said.

His remarks come as a number of US lawmakers have called into question the billions dollars of assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of playing a double game of seeking foreign funding while keeping ties with extremists.

Dianne Feinstein, chief of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, had alleged in May that Pakistan had some form of complicity with bin Laden and that US' assistance was making "less and less sense".

Mullen, who has built a rapport with top Pakistani military leadership over the past four years, claimed that Islamabad remains committed to working with the US on the war against terror.

But Mullen, who steps down from his post in a short time, told reporters in Washington that it will take time to rebuild ties in the wake of the secret US raid that killed the Al Qaeda leader deep within Pakistani borders. He said the raid to kill Osama bin Laden had triggered "a great deal of introspection" in Pakistan.

"They are going to have to finish that before we get back to a point where we are doing any kind of significant training with them," he said.

The top US military officer acknowledged "very significant" cuts to US military numbers in Pakistan. But he added that some of the US troops would remain in the country.

Before Osama was killed on May 2, the US had nearly 200 troops in Pakistan. Most of them were helping to train the Pakistani army.

"There clearly is an ongoing contraction of that support and it is tied to difficult time we are going through," he said.

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