US eyes Pakistan assistance after Times Square plot

* Bomb suspect Pakistan-born, may have Taliban links

* Pakistani forces already “thinly stretched” – Gates

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, May 7 (BestGrowthStock) – The United States
is prepared to provide more assistance to Pakistan, if it wants
it, in the wake of last week’s attempted car bombing in New
York, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.

But Gates appeared to play down the chances of an expanded
crackdown by Pakistan because of the strain its security forces
are already under battling militants in tribal areas bordering
Afghanistan.

“We’re willing to do as much with the Pakistanis and for
the Pakistanis as they are willing to accept,” Gates said.
“It’s their country. They remain in the driver seat. They’ve
got their foot on the accelerator.”

Investigations into the Pakistani-born suspect in the bomb
attempt in New York’s Times Square on Saturday have uncovered
possible links to the Pakistani Taliban and a Kashmiri Islamist
group.

That has prompted speculation that the United States,
Pakistan’s top provider of aid, could press Islamabad to open
risky new fronts against Islamic militants.

But Gates, far from publicly calling on Pakistan to do
more, renewed praise of Islamabad’s efforts against insurgents
and acknowledged that Pakistan’s armed forces were already
stretched.

“The Pakistanis have been doing so much more than any of us
would have expected 18 months or two years ago,” Gates said.

“You also have to realize that, with their military
operations in the West, they’ve started to be pretty thinly
stretched themselves, as well as taking a substantial number of
casualties.”

The United States, which sees Pakistan’s effort against
militants as crucial to its fight against the Taliban in
Afghanistan, has about 200 military personnel in Pakistan,
including Special Operations forces on a training mission.

The CIA is also waging a covert war using pilotless drone
aircraft to target insurgents in Pakistan.

“I think cooperation has continued to (improve), the
relationship is continuing to improve, and I think we just keep
moving in that direction,” Gates said.
Stock Investing

(Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

US eyes Pakistan assistance after Times Square plot