Defence Secretary Robert Gates has brushed aside suggestions about Pakistan being responsible for the problems U.S. is facing in combating the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying there has been qualitative improvement in Islamabad-Washington ties over the last two years, with both sides deepening understanding of mutual threats. I think that the strategic dialogue weve had with the leaders of Pakistan ... has really enhanced the quality of the relationship. And I think that there is a growing common understanding of the mutual threats that we face, he said while answering questions at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council 2010 Meeting. He also cited cooperative anti-militant efforts by the two countries on both sides of the restive Afghan border. Gates said the U.S. has no combat troops on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border and believes that Pakistani troops themselves should fight the militants operating on its soil. The Pentagon leader urged patience when asked whether Pakistan is moving as aggressively against militants as Washington would have liked it to move. Questioned if he sees the arc of U.S. political and military relationship with Pakistan going upwards or downwards, Secretary Gates replied: I think its going up. You know if you had told me two years ago that Pakistan would have 140,000 troops on its western border fighting Taliban and the various other terrorist groups that are in that area, I would have thought that impossible, he elaborated. Is it as fast as we would like? No. But if you had told me, again, two years ago that they would have occupied (wrested back from militants) Swat and South Waziristan and be going after these people, be working with us and partnering with us as we coordinate on both sides of the border, Id have thought that was a reach. When suggested that the strategy in Afghanistan requires the U.S. forces ability to move across that Afghan-Pakistan border to deal with Taliban sanctuaries on the Pakistan side, Gates reiterated the U.S. administrations position that it prefers Pakistani actions against militants operating on its soil. We dont have combat boots on the ground in Pakistan. What we are seeing is the Pakistani government, the Pakistani army taking action against some of these safe havens, disrupting them, and, as I suggested, increasingly coordinating with us innot in cross-border, but on either-side-of-the-border operations against these groups. And I think that the Pakistanis taking it on is clearly preferable. Stressing Islamabads anti-militant progress over the last couple of years, he said Weve said all along, you know, theyve gotten to where they need to be. Were pretty impatient people, you know? We want everything done yesterday. But, again, they are doing things that, frankly, we would have been skeptical they would do even a year, year and a half ago, he remarked. Gates said apart from taking on the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad is also cooperating in fighting other militant groups operating along the Afghan border . Well, their highest prioritys clearly going after the people that they think are trying to overthrow them, which is the Pakistani Taliban. But they are increasingly, I think, moving and working with us against the other groups.