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US, Pakistan build military ties, one officer at a time

Revived exchange program points up Pakistan's importance to US aims in Afghanistan.

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In Classroom 2318 here, Major Naeem is studying the American Civil War, but the lessons being learned are less about Jeb Stuart's Ride or the Confederate advance than about building trust.

Naeem is one of dozens of Pakistanis attending US military schools this year, part of a long tradition in which senior foreign officers visit the United States not only to learn military culture, tactics, and history but also to create lasting relationships.

Naeem is proud of the bonds he has made with fellow officers. But he's also frustrated. He cites a general lack of understanding here about his country and says he thinks the US is disrespecting Pakistan and its Army by using unmanned aircraft to attack militant havens inside its borders.

"Any drone attack hurts me," he says quietly after class.

Success in Afghanistan hinges on its neighbor, Pakistan, and on America's ability to leverage its on-again, off-again relationship with the government in Islamabad. Critics say the US is relying too heavily on the Pakistani military to fight militants there. But others say the US must rebuild a lasting and strategic relationship with Pakistan that gets beyond the suspicions and veiled insults that often emanate from both sides.

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