The US-Pakistan relationship is complicated, but the two countries must keep the lines of communication open to ensure nuclear knowhow or even weapons don't fall into the hands of terrorists, outgoing US defence secretary Robert M Gates said.
"And then just in terms of regional stability, there is the reality that Pakistan is a country that has a number of nuclear weapons," he said during his last news conference Thursday. "And again, keeping those lines of communication open, it seems to me, is very important."
Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, both said the mutual dependence is too strong for either US or Pakistan to end relations with the other.
"It is complicated, but as . I've said often before, we need each other, and we need each other more than just in the context of Afghanistan," Gates said.
"Pakistan is an important player in terms of regional stability and in terms of Central Asia. And so my view is that this is a relationship where we just need to keep working at it."
At the state department, asked about the strained US-Pakistan relationship, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, "I think it's not a secret that our relationship with Pakistan is complex, that it's not easy, that we have our challenges."
But as officials down from President Barack Obama have said, "the US has a profound national interest in working with Pakistan, on terrorism, on extremism, on promoting democracy and stability and prosperity, not only in Pakistan but throughout the region."
"So it's important that we keep at it, and we're planning to keep at it," he said.