- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pakistan's government has made little progress in the past year in battling militants, and there is “no clear path toward defeating the insurgency” in the country, according to a White House report that comes as the U.S. struggles to build it’s often shaky relationship with Islamabad.

While sections of the report tout military gains in Afghanistan, it says the security situation in parts of Pakistan’s border regions has deteriorated since fighting resumed in late 2010. It also raises concerns about ongoing political and economic problems on which Pakistan's government cannot make progress.

U.S. officials agree that Pakistan is critical to U.S. efforts to defeat al Qaeda, since the terror group’s leaders - including Osama bin Laden - are thought to be hiding in havens along the country’s mountainous border.

The Pentagon also has worked to bolster the Pakistani government’s counterinsurgency program with money and training and to encourage cross-border cooperation with Afghanistan.

Persistent efforts by U.S. leaders, including repeated visits to the country by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, have improved relationships between the two nations.

The report describes recent setbacks, including the detention of CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis, but notes that efforts to overcome them have been somewhat successful.

Mr. Davis, who was arrested in the shooting deaths of two Pakistani men in the city of Lahore, was freed eventually after $2.3 million in “blood money” was paid to the families of the deceased.

The report concludes that much more cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is needed in order to eliminate insurgent safe havens and more definitively degrade al Qaeda and other terror groups there. It also points to Pakistan’s failure to set up long-promised border control centers, much like Afghanistan has on its side of the border.

Using efforts to clear the Brekhna region of militants as an example, the report notes this is the third time the Pakistani military has tried to take control of that area.

But the military has been hindered by bad weather, a stubborn insurgency and the discovery of large caches of explosives, and has been unable to hold onto its gains or build on them.

“What remains vexing is the lack of any indication of ‘hold’ and ‘build’ planning or staging efforts to complement ongoing clearing operations,” the report says. “As such, there remains no clear path toward defeating the insurgency in Pakistan despite the unprecedented and sustained deployment of over 147,000 forces.”

The report, compiled by the administration’s national security advisers, evaluates U.S. strategy and policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The unclassified version was released Tuesday. It updates reports from last year that claimed gains had been made in the Afghan war, and it says those advances are continuing, although they remain fragile.

On the political side, the report says Pakistan's government has been unable to resolve serious economic issues, including fuel price increases, tax reform and budget problems. And it criticizes Islamabad for failing to revamp the controversial blasphemy law.

Last month, Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated for supporting changes to the blasphemy law, which make it a capital offense to insult Islam.

The report calls the government response “muted,” and says it “has increased the political space for extremist voices to dominate the public debate.”

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