Offering sympathy for victims of Wednesday's terrorist bombing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Pakistan's offensive against extremists and pledged U.S. support at a critical point in the country's history.
"Pakistan is in the midst of a struggle against tenacious and brutal extremist groups who kill innocent people and terrorize communities," she told a news conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, just hours after a car bomb killed more than 90 people and wounded more than 200 at a Peshawar market, about a three-hour drive from the capital.
"I want you to know this fight is not Pakistan's alone," Clinton said. "These extremists are committed to destroying what is dear to us as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. So this is our struggle as well."
Appearing with her, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the violence would not break his government's will to fight back.
"The resolve and determination will not be shaken," Qureshi said. "People are carrying out such heinous crimes — they want to shake our resolve. I want to address them: We will not buckle. We will fight you. We will fight you because we want peace and stability in Pakistan."
Clinton said her visit — the first since she became secretary of state — was designed to chip away at anti-Americanism in this predominantly Muslim nation and to offer U.S. support for the government's assault on extremism.
Qureshi praised her for coming, saying, "This visit of yours will build bridges" between Pakistanis and Americans. "This visit is well-timed."
Just hours after Clinton's arrival in the country, the car bomb tore through a crowded market in the northwestern city of Peshawar in the latest attack apparently aimed at denting public backing for a recently launched army offensive against al-Qaida and Taliban close to the Afghan border.
'Turning the page'
Clinton said the Obama administration intends to do more to support Pakistan on a wide range of issues, including economic development, energy generation, education and the environment. She suggested that the administration of former President George W. Bush had focused too narrowly on Pakistan's value as an ally in the war on terrorism, neglecting other aspects of the relationship.
"We are turning the page on what has been for the past several years primarily a security, anti-terrorist agenda," she told reporters on the flight from Washington. Anti-terrorism "remains a very high priority, but we also recognize that it's imperative that we broaden our engagement with Pakistan."
In an example of the broader efforts, Clinton announced that the U.S. would contribute $125 million to a project to increase Pakistan's electrical output and improve its energy efficiency.
Upon arriving on an overnight flight, Clinton went directly into talks with Qureshi. She was meeting later with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. She also planned to see Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
One of the most sensitive issues facing Clinton is Pakistan's unexpectedly negative response to congressional passage of a bill providing $7.5 billion over five years for economic and social programs in Pakistan. The Pakistani military was especially critical, saying the bill amounted to U.S. meddling in Pakistan's internal affairs.
Clinton arranged her three-day visit to get maximum public exposure. She planned to meet with students, business leaders, opposition figures and others.
"It is fair to say there have been a lot of misconceptions about what the United States intends for our relationship with Pakistan," Clinton told reporters on her overnight flight, adding, "It is unfortunate there are those who question our motives. I want to clear the air."
In addition to the U.S. partnership with nuclear-armed Islamabad in fending off insurgent efforts to destabilize the government, Washington sees Pakistan as central to its strategy in neighboring Afghanistan. Taliban militants seeking to overthrow the government in Kabul find haven on the Pakistani side of the border.