WASHINGTON - Amid Republican senators calls for a full review of US policy towards Pakistan, the State Department has defended American aid to Islamabad, insisting it continues to yield dividends for both the countries. We believe our assistance to Pakistan still continues to provide dividends for the American people in trying to grow and strengthen Pakistans democratic institutions, boost its economy, spokesman Mark Toner said at the daily briefing on Tuesday.In the long term those are the kinds of things were seeking to achieve, Toner said. Toners remarks came a day after two Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham said that Pakistans response to the NATO-cross border action that killed its 24 soldiers has been deeply troubling and demanded that it is time the US fully reviewed its relationship with Pakistan. Another Republican Senator Mark Kirk said that McCain and Graham, who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are right. Military aid to Pakistan is unsustainable, and in this time of deficits and debt, we ought to save the money, he said, warning that if Pakistan has chosen to embrace terror and back the Haqqani network, it should do so without subsidies from the US taxpayer. Kirk has also called for bolstering ties to India and making India a military ally of the United States and to encourage India to fill the vacuum in Kabul once we leave. But Toner said, There was an incident on November 26 that was difficult for the Pakistani people, for the Pakistani government. They have reacted in a way that shows how important and how significant this tragedy was for them. We have talked since November 26 about trying to overcome this latest challenge, this latest setback in the relationship. Its hard. You know, our leadership, as you cited, has been very forthcoming in saying that expressing condolences, sympathies, pledging to do a full investigation and really trying to address Pakistans concerns about what happened. About the withdrawal of some liaison officers from the Afghan border, the spokesman said, We do believe that more broadly speaking that its important for Afghanistan, Pakistan, ISAF to work better to coordinate their activities on the border so we can obviously address and avoid the kind of incidents that happened on November 26th. On Monday, responding to questions about US-Pakistan relations, Toner said it is committed to addressing challenges in the relationship and to improve bilateral ties. Welcoming Pakistans expression of willingness to rebuild bilateral ties, he said: We also, of course, welcome Prime Minister Gilanis positive statements on the US-Pakistani relationship. The spokesman described the November 26 deaths of Pakistani soldiers in cross-border NATO strikes as a terrible tragedy. Theres an investigation underway, he noted. Weve been very clear all along that we, while expressing our deepest sympathies over this tragedy, are committed to this relationship and working to make it better at every level, Toner added. From the very moments after this tragedy, weve been clear that this is a relationship thats vital to US national security interests. Its vital to Pakistans national security interests. Its vital to the regions interests that we work together productively. And were committed to addressing the issues between us and moving forward. The spokesman avoided commenting directly on Pakistans decision to stay away from the Bonn conference but said it provided an opportunity to international partners to evaluate accomplishments in Afghanistan in the last decade and also look at some of the challenges that remain. Going forward, were looking to the NATO Summit in Chicago... In terms ofPakistans absence, weve been pretty clear that we wanted Pakistan to be a part of thisconference. They made the decision, I believe, not to attend, but going forward, werecertainly going to - were going to work with Pakistan as an essential partner in that regions future. Toner also noted Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States face a shared threat from extremists operating in that region. And so of course, were always in discussion about how we can improve coordination. When pressed if the US accepted the premise that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship needs a reset, Toner replied: I think - I accept the premise that theres - most recently, of course, the terrible tragedy of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed in the cross-border incident, that there have been significant challenges in this relationship - but that were committed to working through them. On the subject of reconciliation in Afghanistan as a way forward, the spokesman said Washingtonsupports an Afghan-led effort but also acknowledged Pakistans importance to thatprocess. Weve also said that, obviously, Pakistan can play a role in that effort. In terms of Washington working to bring Pakistan and Afghanistan back into bettercoordination, he said, thats certainly one of the goals of the ongoing US investigation into the NATO raid. We want to ensure that such a terrible tragedy doesnt occur in the future. Butmore broadly, the goal of conferences like Istanbul is to, obviously, solidify andstrengthen that kind of regional cooperation because - I mean, certainly, Pakistan has avery clear role, but all of Afghanistans neighbors have an important role to play in Afghanistans future development. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clintons phone calls to Pakistani leaders since November 26 NATO attacks, were in part a recognition that this was a significant national tragedy for Pakistan and to, again, just convey one more time our sympathies, our condolences, and to express very clearly that the United States both respects Pakistans sovereignty, but its also very committed to making this relationship work.