WASHINGTON, (National Guard Bureau, July 30, 2007) - The chief of the National Guard Bureau and Pakistani military officials said they strongly support a partnership between the National Guard and Pakistan.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum and retired Lt. Gen. Tariq Waseem Ghazi, Pakistan's former defense secretary, acting as the personal representative of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, enthusiastically endorsed a recommendation made at the last meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Consultation Committee.

That recommendation called for the establishment of a National Guard State Partnership Program with Pakistan in 2007.

The endorsements came at a dinner for Pakistani and American colonels and senior military mentors at Quarters One, the official residence of the chief of the National Guard Bureau at Fort McNair, July 25.

The officers are taking part in a 10-day U.S. Pakistan Senior Officers Program at the National Defense University in Washington.

"We're ready," Lt. Gen. Blum said. "The National Guard is ready to move forward with this partnership."

Lt. Gen. Ghazi is scheduled to report to Musharraf on his return to Pakistan. Lt. Gen. Ghazi said his messages would include "our strong support and strong endorsement for this program."

Lt. Gen. Blum and Lt. Gen. Ghazi's endorsements will also be communicated to the U.S. and Pakistani delegations at the next MCC meeting, scheduled for Aug. 1 in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

The National Guard's State Partnership Program is a unique security cooperation initiative that fosters military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian cooperation; 56 countries are partnered with U.S. states or territories.

The National Guard already has helped Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Ghazi said. An Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake there killed more than 73,000 people.

"It was the National Guard that was flying those (CH-47) Chinooks that were providing the airlift services that everybody in Pakistan came to recognize as angels of mercy," Lt. Gen. Ghazi said. "We are all, one and all, in Pakistan grateful for this. ... The military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has always been very robust. It's always been a very productive relationship."

At the same time, there is always room for improvement in military-to-civilian relations, Lt. Gen. Ghazi said.

The National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) can help accomplish that, Lt. Gen. Blum said.

"It goes far beyond just military-to-military," he said. "It goes from military-to- civilian and civilian-to-civilian as quickly as the two partners want to do that.

"The only thing that limits this program is the desire of the two partners. It's much like a marriage. It's an enduring thing. Both partners have equal say in what happens. It is truly a bilateral, mutually beneficial arrangement between two nations."

Pakistan would be a significant addition to the SPP.

"This is not our first partnership, and certainly it isn't our last one, but it may be one of our most strategic SPPs," Lt. Gen. Blum said. "It's going to be very important for your nation and ours. ... This is a very special time for our nations. Pakistan and the United States will be pivotal to both regional and world stability. We are going to have to be good strategic partners. ... Pakistan is going through a challenging time and so are we and so is the world at large."

"Today is a very poignant day," Lt. Gen. Blum said, referring to the deaths of six Pakistani Frontier Force soldiers in combat with the Taliban.

"It's significant to note the elimination of an important Taliban leader that the U.S. had in custody in Guantanamo who was taken off the battlefield in Afghanistan and held in Guantanamo and then released (2004) and went right back to the terrorist activities that they were engaged in," he said. On July 24, Abdullah Mehsud, one of Pakistan's most-wanted rebel commanders, killed himself with a hand grenade after he was cornered by Pakistan security forces, the Associated Press reported.

"Today, you spilled in Pakistan the blood of your military to bring his operation to an end," Lt. Gen. Blum said, commending "the risk, the sacrifice, the courage and the commitment that Pakistan is making in that region. What you are doing is far greater than is understood here."

Lt. Gen. Blum writes the family members of each National Guard Citizen-Soldier or -Airman killed in connection with the war on terror.

"Today, that is 358 people," he said. "That is less than half of the number of soldiers Pakistan has lost in the same struggle. That's not well understood in this country. You should know that the National Guard knows it, and our Soldiers know it. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate what you're doing."

Lt. Gen. Blum's gratitude is personal: His son was deployed in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

"His safety and safe return was largely dependent on some of the cooperative operations of some of the Pakistan armed forces that were operating on your northwestern frontier so you have a special place in my heart for your commitment," he said. "We have a mutual interest in bringing the rule of law to that region."

Objectives of the U.S.-Pakistan Senior Officers Program include enhancing cooperation and interoperability between the two nations. Activities include seminars, tours and meetings with U.S. civilian and military leaders and a military exercise.

Guests at Wednesday's dinner included Brigadier Khawar Hanif, defense and military attache of Pakistan; Muhammad Aslam Kahn, deputy ambassador, Pakistan Embassy; Lt. Gen. Ghazi; Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense; Mitchell Shivers, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Central and South Asia; Marine Lt. Gen. Frances Wilson, president, National Defense University; Army Maj. Gen. Byron Bagby, commandant, Joint Forces Staff College, and Pennsylvania National Guard leaders.