Washington: The US hopes to have a much
better "sight picture" of the Af-Pak region by the end of this
year, with Osama bin Laden dead and al Qaeda significantly
depleted, a top Pentagon official said on Monday.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chief of
Staffs said the US had made "significant progress" in
Afghanistan and al Qaeda is no more an organisation it used to
be 10 years back.
"I think we will continue to do so (progress) this
year. I think we`ll have a much better sight picture on where
to go in Afghanistan and in the region towards the end of this
year," Mullen told NBC in an interview.
He termed the killing of bin Laden as certainly a
"positive step" but cautioned against making long-term
assumptions based on it.
"I think it`s really too soon to tell. Al-Qaeda is not
the organisation it was 10 years ago when it struck us on
9/11," he said.
"They`ve been significantly reduced in terms of their
overall ability. But they still plan and want to kill as many
Americans and as many westerners as they possibly can. And we
-- need to make sure that obviously they`re unable to achieve
that," Mullen said.
Referring to his recent visit to Pakistan when he
accompanied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mullen said
US` relationship with Pakistan is "complicated and difficult"
but "important" nevertheless.
"I think together we wanted to... send a message of
reassurance with respect to the relationship," he said.
"We have shared interests; certainly the focus on
terrorism being at the top of the list. And we certainly
talked about that. We talked about the militaries sharing, the
intelligence sharing," Mullen said.
He said the two sides also talked about economic
development in that country.
"Mostly it was a trip that was a very comprehensive
discussion of the difficult issues that we have and the
commitment on both sides to continue to try to work (on)
them," he noted.