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Rice: U.S. will support Pakistan

Secretary of state visits quake-hit nation after Afghanistan

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised Pakistani officials Wednesday that the United States will support the country's earthquake relief efforts and help it rebuild.

"While we try to be responsive now, we know there is more to be done," Rice told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The United States has committed $50 million to immediate relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Saturday's 7.6-magnitude quake, which killed at least 20,000 people in Pakistan alone. (Full story)

"Pakistan and the United States are great friends, and that is not just friendship between governments, but it's friendship between our peoples," Rice said.

Pakistan has been a key ally in the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan, committing troops to help rout out Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents in Pakistan's tribal regions near the Afghan border.

Rice is on a tour of Central Asia this week to highlight democratic reforms in the region and added Islamabad to her itinerary after the quake. She also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

She did not tour the devastated Kashmir region. She heads next to Kazakhstan and then Tajikistan. She met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul earlier in the day.

Before leaving Islamabad, Rice personally thanked U.S. and Afghan troops -- lined up on the tarmac at the Islamabad airport -- who are helping with the earthquake relief and recovery effort.

"I was just with President Karzai, he is very proud of what you are doing," she told one Afghan soldier.

After her meeting with Karzai, Rice reiterated the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, saying U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan "as long as they are needed and in whatever numbers they are needed."

"We can not simply defend ourselves. We have to be on the offense," Rice said. "We are on the offense with our Afghan partners here in Afghanistan. That is critical for the security of the Afghan people, but it's also critical for the security of the American people."

Rice said the United States was well aware of what can happen when Afghanistan is allowed to be a haven for terrorists. The country was home to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban before terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on the United States.

U.S. and NATO forces have had a continuing presence in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime following the attacks.

On Tuesday, Rice visited Kyrgyzstan and won fresh assurances from its new president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, that the United States can continue to use its air base in Manas on the outskirts of the capital, Bishkek. (Full story)

Since fall 2001, about 1,000 U.S. troops -- mostly members of the Air Force -- have used Manas for rotating troops, refueling planes and flying supplies into Afghanistan.

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