Pakistan's army is "fighting bravely" against terrorism, the top-ranking US military officer said after a visit to the country to discuss joint efforts against the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The statement from Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came despite concern voiced by US government officials that Pakistan's cease-fire and peace talks with militants in its tribal regions will give hard-liners time and space to plan more attacks.
The outgoing American commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan this week urged Pakistan to confront militants or risk seeing the insurgency spread like a "brush fire."
But Mullen said the Pakistan army remained committed to combating terrorism.
In a statement distributed today by the US Embassy at the end of his third trip to Pakistan since February, Mullen said Pakistani paramilitary forces -- supposed to take the lead in securing the lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border -- were making "strides."
The US government has offered to train and equip the force to improve its counterinsurgency skills, though the programme has yet to get under way.
"There is much work yet to do, of course, and the United States military stands ready to assist in any way the Pakistani government finds appropriate," said Mullen, who left Pakistan yesterday.
"Pakistan and the US remain steadfast allies, and Pakistan's military is fighting bravely against terrorism," he said.
Mullen held talks over two days with military officials including Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who replaced stalwart US ally President Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan army chief last year.