The US is disappointed and suspicious that militants in Pakistan apparently were tipped off that American intelligence officials had discovered two of their suspected bomb-making facilities, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said, but he stopped short of concluding that Pakistani officials leaked the information to the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani insurgents. And Gates said such incidents must not derail US relations with Islamabad, reported Washington Post, quoting him as saying in an interview with an American news agency.
“We don’t know the specifics of what happened,” said Gates. “There are suspicions and there are questions, but I think there was clearly disappointment on our part.”
Asked whether it was time to take a harder line with Pakistan, Gates counselled patience and noted that the Pakistanis have not forgotten that the US abandoned them in the late 1980s after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. “We need each other, and this relationship goes beyond Afghanistan,” he said. “It has to do with regional stability, and I think we have to be realistic about Pakistani distrust ... and their deep belief that when we’re done with Al-Qaeda that we’ll be gone, again.”
Despite recurring tensions between Washington and Islamabad, and questions by some in Congress about the wisdom of having spent billions of dollars on aiding Pakistan since the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks, Gates said the effort has paid off.
Reflecting on his imminent departure from a job he has described as the most rewarding in his long career of government service — including 27 years at the CIA — Gates said he is confident that Leon Panetta will gain his footing quickly at the Pentagon. “There is no lapse in terms of somebody getting up to speed on the issues,” Gates said. “Essentially, Leon just changes place in the Situation Room,” referring to the main crisis management room inside the White House.
“He’s been in all the conversations on all the big issues, so there’s just no catch-up time at all for him,” he added.