The US-Pak military ties are going through a 'very difficult time,' a top Pentagon official has conceded, but Washington is nowhere close to severing its ties with its longstanding ally.
"I think that decision is representative of concerns, certainly, that are held in my Congress with respect to the status of the relationship, the needs to do certain things to move ahead here, and that's a very strong signal in that regard," Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told foreign journalists at a news conference in Washington, DC.
Mullen was responding to questions about the recent US decision to withhold about $800 million of military assistance to Pakistan, which the Pentagon says is in response to Pakistan's decision to expel US trainers and deny visas to its people.
"We're in a very difficult time right now with respect to our military-to-military relationship," Mullen conceded, but added that it does not mean the relationship would end.
"That said, I don't believe we're close to severing it, and we shouldn't do that. I think sustaining this relationship is critical. We've been through difficult times with them in the past, and we should see this difficult time through, in terms of sustaining this relationship over time".
He said his interactions with the military leadership of Pakistan, including General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, indicates that Islamabad too was supportive of continuing the bilateral relationship.
"... and we need to work our way through the details of how we're going to do this," he said, pointing out that the relationship deals with a critical region and the occurrences in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region are vital to both sides.
"And we seek the same way I talk about peace and stability in the Pacific, we certainly seek the same outcome, much different circumstances, but I think we all agree that we need to figure a way to get to that level of stability that that region hasn't seen for a long time," Mullen said.