WASHINGTON - Asserting that the failure of the Swat deal was a real wake-up call for Pakistan, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that Pakistani military forces have started to regain the initiative in its northwestern areas that recently fell under the Taliban control. It is my impression from the great distance that they have begun to regain the initiative, he told CNN when asked about Pakistan armys operations against the Taliban militants in Buner and other areas around the Swat valley. Gates said the militants posed an existential threat to Pakistan, noting that the countrys leadership is determined to confront the menace. I think the leaders of Pakistan do understand this. President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the others. But I think there is a need for them to help the rest of Pakistan understand why it is an existential threat. Asked to comments on Pakistans criticism that the US was reluctant to provide it with the necessary counterinsurgency equipment, including helicopters and night vision goggles, Gates said that was not the case. In fact, he said, there was hesitation on Pakistans part to have a too much American involvement on its soil. The United States, he said, was prepared to help Pakistan with training and counterinsurgency equipment. We have been willing to provide that kind of training and that kind of equipment, as much as we can provide as much as they can take. Pakistan, he said, does not want a significant American footprint on its soil. I understand that. But we are willing to do pretty much whatever we can to help the Pakistanis in this situation. Asked if America will send more counterinsurgency trainers beyond a small number, Gates replied: I think that remains to be seen. I think it will depend on how the situation develops and the views of the Pakistani government. I would say we will provide whatever help in developing this counterinsurgency capability to the Pakistanis that we can. But it is their country. And they are sovereign. And we will let them dictate the rules. In response to repeated questions by host of GPS programme Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-American who repeatedly tried to get Gates to criticise the performance of the Pakistan Army, Gates expressed understanding of the situation in its proper historical perspective. I think what you have to do is look at this in historical context. For sixty years, Pakistan has regarded India as its existential threat, as the main enemy. And its forces are trained to deal with that threat and that is where is the bulk of its army and the bulk of its military capability. And historically the western parts of Pakistan has generally been ungoverned. And that Pakistani government, going back decades, would do deals with the tribes, Pasthuns, he said adding that even in America it took a long time after the first al-Qaeda attack to change acknowledge that it was at war with the militant organisation. Similarly, Gates said on the news programme that Pakistan is beginning to develop the counterinsurgency capability, citing Americas own experience of several years in changing its tactics after the Iraq war. Its not something where I would sort of blame the Pakistani army because we went through the same process ourselves as we confronted insurgency in Iraq. So perhaps, I have a little more understanding of the challenges that our Pakistani counterparts face.