Pakistan tops priority list of all the challenges and potential problems the United States faces, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday. Pakistan faces a lot of problems right now," he said during an interview on the "Charlie Rose Show" on PBS. "I think ... they have always thought of India as the existential threat to Pakistan, [but] I think they are beginning to understand that the extremists in the ungoverned spaces in their west have become an existential threat." Going forward in the Middle East, the United States will be looking for ways to strengthen its partnership with Pakistan, Gates said, such as helping the country with some of its economic problems. At the same time, he added, Pakistan will be encouraged to take action in some of its ungoverned spaces in the western part of the country, where the Taliban and al Qaida have taken sanctuary. "Now, the Pakistanis are back in the fight," he added. "They have been an important source of support for us. Almost all of our supplies, about 80 percent of our dry cargo, move through Pakistan to Afghanistan, and they have helped provide protection for the convoys." "They really have to make up their minds now that ... those groups are a threat, not a hedge," he said. "And they really have to get in the fight against those groups as well." And Pakistan plays an important role in success or failure in Afghanistan, Gates said. "I think one of the challenges that faces the new administration is, in fact, to decide what our objectives are in Afghanistan, and whether some of our objectives may reach too far into the future in terms of being idealistic," Gates said. "I think everybody agrees that's got to be our highest priority in Afghanistan to keep it from becoming a safe haven again.