WASHINGTON - The United States is quietly working with Pakistan to mend their strained bilateral relationship, the top American military officer has said, while noting that the South Asian country is now stable.

“I think the best thing we’ve done is we’ve not conducted our engagement with them with a megaphone,” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a television interview Friday night.

“We’ve communicated with them directly. We’ve communicated with them privately. We’re back in close contact with them along the border. We have been in conversations about our mil-to-mil relationship, about our foreign military sales, about some of the common challenges of terrorism,” he said on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) news programme with Charlie Rose.

The Pakistani legislature, he said, is discussing what the new relationship with the United States might be following the November 26 NATO airstrikes on tribal border posts which killed at 24 Pakistani soldiers. “I’m personally optimistic that we can reset the relationship in a way that meets both of our needs,” the chairman said.

Still, the Pakistani military lacks the capability needed to end terror groups using the country as a safe haven. The Pakistanis may have the will to do something, but not the means. “I believe they will do the best they can, but it may not be enough for us,” he said. Citing the Haqqani network as an example, he said the network has been in place for 20 years and is ‘intertwined’ into the society of western Pakistan. “I think they’re intermarried,” he said. All this makes it difficult for his Pakistani counterpart, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to deliver. Still the general said he believes Kayani will do everything he can against these terror groups.

Pakistan continues to have a bleak economic picture, a growing population and a policy that still regards India as the nation’s existential threat, the chairman said. Asked if he believed that Pakistan is now stable, in the wake of years of grappling with the militancy challenges, the chairman Joint Chief Staff responded: “I do believe Pakistan is stable today.”

At the same time, he felt that “there are some trend lines that would be concerning for both them and us in terms of migration of various terrorist groups.” All this makes it extraordinarily difficult for Pakistan to deliver.

Dempsey said while he is not a Pakistan apologist, Kayani and he were classmates in a US military academy in Leavenworth and have had candid and frank discussions on countering terror challenges their two countries face.

General Dempsey said he believes Gen Kayani, will do everything he can against these terror groups, operating along the border. Replying to a question, he said the top uniformed officer of the United States said Gen Kayani was upset when he found that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding on Pakistani territory and was killed by American forces.

“He was, and I believe sincerely,” Dempsey said.

On Afghanistan, Dempsey said while recent incidents have challenged US operations in Afghanistan, the long-term objectives there remain the same.

He said the US military is committed to conducting an investigation into the March 11 massacre of Afghan civilians by an American staff sergeant in Kandahar province.