WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Working with Afghanistan and Pakistan may not always be easy but it is necessary to advance U.S. security interests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Speaking to the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton briefed lawmakers about her recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, accompanied by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Director David Petraeus.
The trip came at a time when U.S.-Pakistan relations remain strained over a number of issues, including U.S. efforts to convince the Pakistani military to go after the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, which is seen as using its Pakistani sanctuary to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Clinton said while it may not be easy to work with the Afghan and Pakistani partners, such "relationships are advancing America's national security interests," and walking away from them would "undermine those interests," said a report on the Defense Department Web site.
Clinton said in talks with Afghan and Pakistani leaders, she explained the three-track U.S. strategy of "fight, talk and build."
She said the coalition and Afghan forces have increased pressure on the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other insurgents.
"But our commanders on the ground are increasingly concerned ... that we have to go after the safe havens across the border in Pakistan," she said.
"So in Islamabad last week, Gen. Dempsey, Director Petraeus and I delivered a single, unified message: Pakistan's civilian and military leadership must join us in squeezing the Haqqani network from both sides of the border and in closing safe havens."
Clinton noted that the United States has made much progress in Afghanistan, but the work that remains to be done requires cooperation from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Many of our successes against al-Qaida would not have been possible without our presence in Afghanistan and close cooperation with Pakistan," she said.
Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said it is hard to be optimistic about the situation as all options "run the risk of being ineffectual, counterproductive or both," The Washington Post reported.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the Obama administration should "re-evaluate" all military assistance to Pakistan.