US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice does not subscribe to the view that Pervez Musharraf's resignation as president would leave a power vacuum in Pakistan though admittedly the country is in a "fragile situation".
"Look, obviously, it's a fragile situation in Pakistan because it's a new civilian government for the first time in a long time in Pakistan, since 1999," she told reporters Monday on way to Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
But "I don't subscribe to the notion that there's no leadership in Pakistan," Rice said when asked how worried the US was about a possible power vacuum during the political transition after Musharraf's departure, a view articulated among others by India's National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.
"Obviously, it's a difficult and fragile time, but it is an elected government. I think it has fabulous support. And that's a lot to build on," she said.
"And so our effort is to support that government, strengthen it," Rice said. "And it is our intention and it's the intention of our allies as well to do everything that we can to strengthen that government."
The top US diplomat said Washington had also told the Pakistanis that they need to focus intensely and intensively on what is going on in that country's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan as well as the militants' increasing capability and, it appears, willingness to attack targets outside the tribal belt.
"We have very good military-to-military ties. We have very good cooperation and discussions through multiple channels," Rice said, noting that a number of American high-ranking military officials had visited Pakistan recently. "But ultimately, as I said, it's a fragile situation with a new government."
But the US believed that the new government can succeed in taking on the terrorists, she said.
"We've talked about some of the strategies", but the US has made it "very clear" that the strategy of trying to negotiate in the tribal belt has not demonstrated results.
"But it is a government that has been elected by the Pakistani people and we're going to do everything we can to strengthen it and continue working with it," Rice said.
Rice parried a question if Musharraf was in touch with the US before tendering his resignation. "He was not in touch with me. I am not aware that he was in touch with the US government. But I can't vouch for that, given that I've been flying."
The US official praised Musharraf for taking "his country a long way, turning it back from the extremism" that was starting to characterise it at the time of the Sepember 11, 2001 terrorist attack. "He also kept his promise to try and help transition to free and fair elections."
"We didn't agree with everything that he did, especially the state of emergency, but he did take off the uniform. The elections were free and fair and he served as a good ally for the US," Rice said.