WASHINGTON The United States has reacted cautiously to reports that Pakistans army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is fighting to save his position in the aftermath of the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying the general cares deeply about the forces he is leading. What the Pakistani militarys going through right now, obviously is considerable introspection based on recent events, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday. That makes a lot of sense to me. Theyve got some questions. I know General Kayani well enough to know (that) what he cares about the most is not himself: What he cares about the most is his institution. Pressured by Washington to crack down on terrorists at the same time he was kept in the dark about the Abbottabad operation, Kayani is facing more vocal and strident criticism than he has in the past, a senior US military official told CNN. We really think he is coming under increased scrutiny by junior and mid-grade officers. Pakistan is a partner against terrorists, Gates and Mullen said. At the press conference, both Mullen and outgoing Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, deflected questions on whether they were concerned that Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has led the Pakistani Army since 2007, might be in danger of losing his position. Gates and Mullen said it was critical for the United States to maintain ties with Pakistan despite growing anti-Americanism in the Pakistani military and the worst relationship between the two countries in years. The long history of the US-Pakistani relationship has had its ebbs and flows, Gates said, but then added, We need each other, and we need each other more than just in the context of Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen warned about the perils of abandoning Pakistan, saying, Were we to walk away, I think its a matter of time before the region is that much more dangerous, and there would be a huge pull for us to have to return to protect our national interests. The news conference was the last one for Mr Gates as Secretary Of Defense, a job he has held since 2006 and is to leave on June 30. He said little about the main issue facing him as he exits, the number of American troops to leave Afghanistan next month under a withdrawal schedule ordered by President Obama. Gates also declined to say that the United States was winning the war, despite claims of recent military gains. Mullen, who has undertaken about two dozen trips to Pakistan, said he has strong relationship with Gen Kayani and considers him a friend. But its not just the personal relationship, because I have a very strong professional relationship. Nor is mine the only relationship in our military-to-military relationship between the two countries. Agencies add: Gates said Pakistan is a key regional player in Central Asia as well. Pakistan is an important player in terms of regional stability and in terms of Central Asia. And so my view is that this is a relationship where we just need to keep working at it. They (Pakistanis) have regarded over the decades that we have abandoned them on at least four occasions: two wars with India, when the Soviets left Afghanistan, and then after the enforcement of the Pressler amendment. So its a relationship both sides have had to work on. Admiral Mike Mullen said from his perspective, nothings changed in terms of the criticality of the relationship. Gates and Mullen said Pakistan has 140,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has cleaned South Waziristan and the Swat Valley of the Taliban. The United States ships a majority of its supplies (around 60 per cent) to Afghanistan across Pakistan, and keeping those lines of communication open is also literally and figuratively important. Finally, both men pointed out that Pakistan is a nuclear country. Maintaining good relations with Pakistan could help ensure nuclear know -how and safety. Mullen said he agrees with what the secretary said. And you know, were it to break or were we to walk away, I think its a matter of time before the region is that much more dangerous and there would be a huge pull for us to have to return to protect our national interests, Mullen remarked. Questioned about the impact Washingtons cutting off funding for Pakistan could have and whether the US strategy in Afghanistan could succeed without Pakistan, Gates underlined Pakistans important role. First of all, I would say that our strategy is succeeding and Pakistan is playing a contributory role to that. Mullen warned that the US cannot afford to let its relationship with a key nuclear-armed country deteriorate. Those things that I fear in the future, Mullen told Pentagon reporters, are the proliferation of that technology, and its the opportunity and the potential that it could fall into the hands of terrorists, many of whom are alive and well and seek that in that region. I have learned a few things in four and a half years, and one of them is to try to stay away from loaded words like 'winning and 'losing, Gates said. But he did say that our military operations are being successful in denying the Taliban control of populated areas, degrading their capabilities and improving the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces. Admiral Mullen stressed that President Obama had made no decision yet on the pace of the reduction. Administration officials said that Gen David H Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, met on Thursday with the president. They discussed a range of options, said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. I think the general has said in the past publicly that this was a question of options, plural, and not option, and that conversation will continue. On a similar issue, Mullen said that aid to Yemen is still stalled, as the country wrestles with violent unrest and government upheaval. He said the aid program was interrupted by the chaos there, and once that ebbs the US will consider what next steps to take. Mullen said the Pakistan Army and its chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani should be given some time and space for introspection in the aftermath of the US raid in Abbottabad. I think we need to give it a little time and a little space, as they, go through this introspection. I think there will be opportunities for the relationship to improve. Pakistan and the United States have formed a joint counterterrorism task force to oversee operations against terrorism, the Washington Post reported. The report said: this joint group, formed last month, is intended to satisfy Pakistani demands that the United States curb its unilateral intelligence operations. Pakistan also plans to end the CIAs use of the Shamsi air base as a staging area for predator drone attacks. Meanwhile, the United States will keep supplying F-16s and may replace two P-3 Orion surveillance planes destroyed in a terrorist attack in Karachi last month. Pakistani cooperation with US Special Forces will continue but on a less visible scale as Pakistan will take over what had been a joint training mission for the Frontier Corps at Warsak. The report also says that the US will consult Pakistan as it seeks a political settlement in Afghanistan. A team working for Marc Grossman, the US special representative overseeing those negotiations, recently visited Islamabad to brief officials there. This week the New York Times reported that Pakistan had arrested five CIA informants who had helped pinpoint bin Laden, sparking outrage in the United States. Pakistans military said the story was totally baseless.