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Despite his legislation’s impact on U.S.-Pakistan relations, Mr. Pressler told The Times that the Clinton administration’s decision to stop implementing the amendment was “one of the great foreign-policy mistakes in recent history.”

Mr. Pressler, who retired in 1997 and has served on the boards of several U.S., British and Indian companies, said the measure delayed progress on Pakistan’s nuclear program for a decade. Pakistan exploded a nuclear device in 1998 after India carried out nuclear tests.

Adm. Mullen said that even during the most crisis-ridden years, the United States and Pakistan collaborated in international peacekeeping operations in Somalia. But he said he was stunned earlier this year when he was invited to speak to a group of about 30 Pakistani war-college students at the American Embassy in Islamabad. The majority of the questions were about the Pressler Amendment, which was passed before most of the students were born.

The legislation has affected every aspect of the “mil-to-mil relationship,” he said. “We have a tendency to move on as Americans, and we can’t in this regard.”

According to the Pentagon, from 1980 to 1989, more than 1,300 Pakistani military men attended U.S. war-staff colleges and technical and professional schools in the United States.

The current chief of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and developed close relationships with top U.S. military leaders.

While Gen. Kiyani was head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), comparable to the U.S.’s CIA, he and Gen. Custer, who was then at the Intelligence Directorate at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), worked closely together.

Gen. Custer said a U.S. lack of understanding of the political situation in Pakistan has led to a very “myopic view” of the region and a distancing of the two allies.

During the ‘90s, the number of Pakistani students in the United States plummeted to only about 300, Adm. Mullen said. The figure over the past eight years is 98. Considering the crisis in Afghanistan and growing extremism plaguing both Afghanistan and Pakistan, “we need to do more than that,” he said.

Senior Pakistani officials have been reluctant to accept U.S. counterterrorism training or to participate in combined missions to fight terrorism. U.S. aid has been limited to military equipment, helicopter maintenance and financial support.

In October, however, Pakistan agreed to accept 25 American master military trainers to advise selected members of the Frontier Corps, who will then train other Pakistanis fighting extremists along the border with Afghanistan.

While the number of trainers isn’t large, Adm. Mullen said, the agreement is a significant step in rebuilding relations.

“The offer is still on the table to provide more U.S. military support,” he said.

The U.S. offer comes as a new democratic government in Pakistan struggles to fight its own war on terrorism and deal with growing economic fragility.

“Pakistan is not going to be used as a safe haven for anything or anyone,” Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told The Times. “We are also working closely with our U.S. counterparts, but this is Pakistan’s war against terror as well.”

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