US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter met with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on the hush last week reportedly to convey an ‘important message’ from the Obama administration concerning the Haqqani network.
The meeting was believed to have played a key role in cooling the rhetoric between the two sides following weeks of fiery statements on one of the most influential Afghan Taliban allied insurgent groups.
US officials confirmed the meeting, saying Ambassador Munter’s message from Washington was very clear: “The US wants to remain engaged with Pakistan.”
Munter told General Kayani that Pakistan would have to take certain actions against the Haqqani network, they added. However, Pakistan military officials played down the hype surrounding these messages.“Americans continue to push us to do more,” said a military official, who asked to remain anonymous, while referring to the meeting between Munter and Kayani.
He said the Army chief voiced his concerns over the recent allegations by senior US officials linking the country’s top spy agency with the Haqqani network.
“We have made our position very clear that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the mess in Afghanistan,” the official added. Pakistan continues to resist mounting US pressure to eliminate the Haqqani network’s ‘safe havens’ in its tribal belt.
The issue has become a major stumbling block in improving the US-Pak relationship which has been on a steady decline since the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. However, it was believed that the two countries had reached some understanding to avoid public accusations against each other.
In the backdrop of a series of meetings between Ambassador Munter and senior Pakistani leaders including President Asif Zardari last week, an American diplomat told The Express Tribune that ‘the worst is over.’
Pakistani officials acknowledged that tensions had simmered to some extent but the relationship was not ‘out of the woods as of yet.’
When approached, Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas said he had no knowledge of the meeting between Ambassador Munter and General Kayani.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2011.