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April 3 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - April 3, 2012

            GEORGE LITTLE:  Good afternoon.  I have no announcements to make today, so I will go straight to your questions. 

            Yes, sir.   

            Q:  Yes.  Thank you. 

            Or, Bob -- 

            Q:  No, no, please. 

            Q:  OK.  Thank you.   

            MR. LITTLE:  You all can vie for your place, if you want. 

            Q:  My question is as far as opening the doors of Pakistan's -- the supply route to Afghanistan for the U.S., Secretary Panetta also spoke very clearly about this, that Pakistan is now sending a mixed signal rather than a clear policy or clear -- what they want.   

            But what Pakistan is saying -- that really that if the civilian government opens the route for the U.S. for supply and they have threats from the religious organizations and terrorist organizations that if they -- if the civilian government opens the route, then they will march to Islamabad -- and so what's happening?  What's going on?  

            And also, ongoing violence in Karachi also is a threat to the stability in Pakistan. 

            MR. LITTLE:  Well, let me break apart that question into a couple of answers, if I may.  First, with respect to the ground supply routes into Afghanistan, we remain hopeful that those routes will be reopened in the near future, and discussions with the Pakistanis continue on a range of issues.  General Allen and General Mattis had a very good session with General Kayani and other Pakistani officials recently, and we look forward to future discussions.   

            As I've said on repeated occasion to all of you, the relationship with Pakistan remains very important to the United States and we're always looking for ways to explore further cooperation.  And it's important to recognize that cooperation does continue on a variety of fronts, and that includes the issue of counterterrorism and also coordination along the border with Afghanistan. 

            So we think that we are -- the relationship is settling and, even though we've been through a rocky period, we can get through it. 

            On the issue of terrorism, the Pakistanis have been the victims of very devastating violence inflicted by terrorists, so we share a common cause in thwarting al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that are operating in the region, and we're going to continue to try to work closely with our Pakistani counterparts to prevent terrorist attacks against Pakistani interests, against American interests and those of our allies. 

            Q:  (Off mic) -- quickly, that if Secretary Panetta has said that Pakistan think or Pakistanis told him that India's a threat to Pakistan.  That's why maybe this problem is going on. 

            MR. LITTLE:  I'm not quite sure -- 

            Q:  If Secretary Panetta has said in his interviews or in his remarks, I believe, that Pakistanis told him that India is a threat to Pakistan. 

            MR. LITTLE:  I'm not going to get into private discussions that the secretary may or may not have had at various points.  But everyone recognizes that there have been tensions in that region for some time. We recognize those, and we believe that -- and to the extent that we can do so, we will -- we'll try to forge our greater cooperation to prevent unintended consequences of historic tensions from creating greater conflict. 

            Barbara. 

            Q:  George, why -- can you walk us through why the coalition and the United States is negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government right now governing how night raids are conducted in the war in Afghanistan?  Why are you doing it?  Why is it important?  And then I want to ask you a follow-up, since you brought up the Allen-Mattis meeting. 

            MR. LITTLE:  OK.  Well, first, on the issue of night raids, this has been a concern of the Afghan government for some time.  We recognize that.  We recognize the effectiveness as well that night operations have had over time.  And that's why we're working through an agreement with our Afghan partners.  We believe we're making progress in heading toward an agreement on this and a broad range of other issues. 

            It's important to recognize too, Barbara that at this point in time we're working hand in hand -- ISAF forces are working hand in hand with our Afghan partners on night operations, and they are highly effective.  And many of them don't take place with a shot being fired. 

            So we're working closely with our Afghan partners.  We're making progress.  And that's reflective, I think, of the progress we're making overall. 

            Q:  Right, but what I don't understand, and maybe you can explain, is why do you -- if they're working and they're effective, why do you need an agreement?  What is the -- if you can't say what's in it, which I'm assuming you can't, what is the scope of it? 

            What it is intended to address? 

            MR. LITTLE:  I wouldn't get into the scope of a prospective agreement and get out ahead of what actually may come out on paper at the end of the day.   

            But there are agreements that we make with our Afghan partners and our -- and other partners around the world all the time when there are concerns expressed, when they want to determine how particular operations are going to move forward into the future.  And it's important to realize that this will be, at the end of the day, something that they're responsible for -- when we move toward an enduring presence as part of our -- the transition process, and codifying that, we think, could benefit Afghanistan, the United States and our coalition partners. 

            Q:  I'm sorry -- (inaudible). 

            MR. LITTLE:  It makes sense. 

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