Pentagon: Relationship with Pakistan IS critical

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNS | June 16, 2011 | 3:43 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Pentagon leaders say the U.S. must keep working to salvage its relationship with Pakistan in order to preserve security in the region and protect against potential proliferation of that country's nuclear weapons.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, says one of his fears is that the nuclear technology could fall into the hands of terrorists operating in Pakistan.

Anger and frustration with Islamabad has escalated in recent days amid reports that Pakistani intelligence officials arrested informants who helped the U.S. in its May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. and Pakistan need one another, and both he and Mullen are warning that now is not the time to cut back on aid to Pakistan.