Gates, on his first trip to Pakistan since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year, is visiting after a period of tense relations marked by a significant degree of distrust on both sides.
Islamabad has mounted big offensives against Pakistani Taliban factions attacking the state, but has resisted U.S. pressure to go after Afghan Taliban in border enclaves who do not strike in Pakistan but cross the border to fight U.S. troops.
Analysts say Pakistan sees the Afghan Taliban as tools to counter the growing influence of old rival India in Afghanistan and as potential allies in Afghanistan if U.S. forces withdraw and, as many Pakistanis fear, leave the country in chaos.
Gates said in a commentary published in a Pakistani newspaper that making a distinction between Pakistani Taliban and their Afghan allies was counterproductive and all factions had to be tackled.
“What I hope to talk about with my interlocutors is this notion and the reality that you can’t ignore one part of this cancer and pretend that it won’t have some impact closer to home,” Gates told reporters traveling with him from India.
Pakistan and the United States have been allies for years but ties have been strained by U.S. calls for Pakistan to do more to stop militants crossing from its lawless ethnic Pashtun border lands to fight in Afghanistan.
But Pakistan’s military spokesman said there would be no new offensives for the next six months to a year as forces were consolidating gains against the Pakistani Taliban.
“We are not in a position to get overstretched,” the spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, told reporters.
Source: writing by Robert Birsel; editing by Bill Tarrant via Reuters.