WASHINGTON - Pledging to remain Pakistan's steadfast ally, US Defence Secretary Robert has urged Pakistani authorities to severe contacts with some of the Taliban groups, saying they were now "existential threat" to Pakistan itself. "(T)he Pakistanis have had contacts with these groups since they were fighting the Soviets 20 or 25 years ago when I first was dealing with the Pakistanis (as CIA's deputy chief) on this, and I must say also helping make sure that some of those same groups got weapons from our safe haven in Pakistan," he said in an interview with FOX News Sunday."But with people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Hagqani network, the Pakistanis have had contacts with these people for a long time, I think partly as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever," the Defence Secretary said when asked about media reports that elements in Pakistani intelligence services were helping sections of the Taliban movement. "What we need to do is try and help the Pakistanis understand these groups are now an existential threat to them and we will be there as a steadfast ally for Pakistan," Gates said. "They can count on us and they don't need that hedge." Replying to a question, he said the near-term objectives of the US mission in Afghanistan have been narrowed to defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but the long-term aim still would be to see a flourishing democracy in that strife-torn country. He was asked why the Obama Administration had given up on former president George W Bush's goal to promote democracy in Afghanistan. "I think what we need to focus on our efforts is making headway in reversing the Taliban's momentum and strengthening the Afghan army and police - and really going after Al-Qaeda, as the President said," Gates said. "They (Al-Qaeda) certainly have the capability to plan, and in many ways they have metastasized, with elements in North Africa, in the Levant, in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, and they aren't necessarily directly controlled from Al-Qaeda in western Pakistan, but they are trained there. They often get guidance from there and inspiration from there." Agencies add: Gates urged Pakistan's powerful intelligence service - Inter-Services Intelligence - to cut contacts with extremists in Afghanistan, which he called an 'existential threat' to Pakistan itself. Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence has had links with extremists 'for a long time, as a hedge against what might happen in Afghanistan if we were to walk away or whatever', he said, citing the ISI's links specifically to the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani militant network and to the forces of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Pentagon chief's comments came after President Barack Obama Friday put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against Al-Qaeda with a new strategy to commit thousands more troops and billions of dollars to the Afghan war. "He clearly understands this is a very tough fight and that we're in it until we're successful, that Al-Qaeda is no longer a threat to the United States and that we are in no danger of either Afghanistan or the western part of Pakistan being a base for Al-Qaeda," Gates said. Asked about a New York Times report that US military commanders had pressed Obama for even more troops, he said: "The President has approved every single soldier that I have requested of him. "Now, the reality is I've been at this a long time and I don't think I've ever in several decades run into a ground commander who thought he had enough troops. That's probably true in all of history. "But we have fulfilled all of the requirements that the general has put down for 2009, and my view is there's no need to ask for more troops," he said, referring to US commander General David McKiernan. "And the reality is there already are a lot of troops there. This will bring us, when all is said and done, to 68,000 troops plus another 35,000 or so Europeans and other partners." But the new strategy will be reviewed at the end of the year, Gates also stressed, and said the US has not given up on extracting more troops from European nations as Obama heads to a NATO summit in France and Germany. "In fact, I think some of our allies will send additional forces there to provide security before the August elections in Afghanistan," Gates said, adding that Washington also expected more civilian experts and police trainers. Gates said the short-term objectives for US forces in Afghanistan have narrowed under the new strategy. He said the US needs to focus its efforts on making headway and reversing the Taliban's momentum, and strengthening the Afghan army and police - while really going after Al-Qaeda.