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Pakistan Dismisses USA ‘Warning’ Over ‘Pakistan-Based Militants

Posted by yourpakistan on September 15, 2011

Pakistani officials on Thursday fended off a warning that the United States would do whatever it takes to defend US forces from Pakistan-based militants staging attacks in Afghanistan, saying there was no proof of such cross-border operations. US officials, including Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, suspect militants from the Haqqani network were behind Tuesday’s rocket attack on the US Embassy compound in Kabul, as well as a truck bomb last Saturday that wounded 77 American forces.

“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area,” Panetta told reporters flying with him to San Francisco on Wednesday. “I think the message they need to know is: we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces.”

The comments could fuel tensions between uneasy allies the United States and Pakistan. Relations dropped to a low point after a unilateral US special forces raid killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May. Pakistani officials said it was the responsibility of US-led forces to crack down on militants when they enter Afghanistan. “We are using all our resources to fight terrorism. As far as these issues like Haqqani network launching attacks from Pakistani territory is concerned, has any proof ever been given?” said a senior Pakistani military official who asked not to be named.

A senior Pakistani government official involved in defence policy said the South Asian country, reliant on billions of dollars in US aid, was doing all it could to stop militants from crossing the border to Afghanistan. “But if the militants are doing something inside Afghanistan, then it is the responsibility of the Afghan and Western forces to hold them on the borders,” he said. “They let everyone go scot-free on their side (of the border) and then they say Pakistan is not doing enough.”

Suspected ties to the Haqqanis

Panetta, who was CIA director until July, has long pressed Islamabad to go after the Haqqanis, perhaps the most feared of the Taliban-allied insurgent factions fighting US-led Nato and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence has long been suspected of maintaining ties with the Haqqani network, cultivated during the 1980s when Jalaluddin Haqqani was a feared battlefield commander against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Pakistan says it has no links to the group.
Panetta said he was concerned about the Haqqanis’ ability to attack American troops and then “escape back into what is a safe haven in Pakistan.” “And that’s unacceptable,” Panetta said.

The CIA has had success targeting militants in Pakistan using pilotless drones. Last month, Admiral Mike Mullen, the top US military officer, cited progress curtailing Haqqani movements within Afghanistan. Going after Haqqani could be risky for Pakistan’s army, which is already stretched fighting Taliban militants determined to topple the US-backed government.

Haqqani himself is believed to have thousands of seasoned fighters, and he is revered by other militant groups who would likely defend him against any offensives. US and Pakistani officials recently noted strong counter-terrorism cooperation after senior al Qaeda operative Younis al Mauritani was captured in Pakistan this month. Comments from both sides suggested the allies were starting to put behind them the bitterness caused by bin Laden’s death.

After the secret raid, the number of US military trainers in Pakistani, who had numbered in the hundreds a year ago, were reduced to literally a couple of hand-fulls earlier this year Some US officials in Washington said relations were still heavily strained.

“The bilateral relationship is still in deep trouble but the atmospherics are a bit better. Name calling has largely ended for now,” said former senior CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who has advised Obama on policy in South Asia. “Distrust has not gone away, nor has the fundamental difference in the approach to terror.


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