NEW YORK -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States strongly backs Pakistan as Islamabad faces a "critical juncture" in the struggle to strengthen democracy and battle extremists.
In a speech in New York City on December 11, Clinton urged Pakistan to build up its democracy and improve security by confronting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants that operate along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
She was speaking to a newly created Pakistani-American group, the America-Pakistan Foundation. U.S. officials say the aim of the foundation, which has strong U.S. backing, is to enlist the help of the Pakistani diaspora in the United States to support projects inside Pakistan.
Clinton said many Pakistanis are skeptical of U.S. intentions in the country, and this lack of trust sometimes prevents the two sides from cooperating.
"During my October trip, I experienced the skepticism felt by many in Pakistan about America's motives and commitment," Clinton said. "This trust deficit holds us back from working together as well as we could and as well as we must."
Clinton offered assurances that the United States has no intention of undermining Pakistan's sovereignty and that Washington wants to be a partner.
"We seek not to impose our preferences on Pakistan or to override the government's judgments or subvert the people's will," she said. "Instead, we want a relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibility."
In October, U.S. President Obama signed into law a $7.5 billion, five-year aid package to Pakistan. The loan is to be used for civilian construction and renovations: building roads, schools, power facilities.
The United States has already has sent more than $10 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001. Most of the money was used to reimburse Pakistan's military for its fight against terrorist groups, particularly along the border with Afghanistan.
But Clinton said more needs to be done: "To achieve the long-term progress that Pakistan seeks and deserves, we must go further in two areas: helping Pakistan strengthen its democratic institutions and improving security by defeating the extremists groups who are waging a campaign of violence against Pakistan and threatening stability in South Asia and beyond."
In addition to a military and logistic support, Clinton said that the United States is committed to ensure the stable growth of Pakistan's economy through investments in large energy and transportation projects, agriculture, education, water irrigation, and water-treatment facilities projects.
A 2009 survey by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project found that only 16 percent of Pakistanis hold a favorable view of the United States, down from 19 percent in 2008. Also, only 4 percent said the United States should keep troops in Afghanistan, down from 9 percent last year.