US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey says that they do not have any intelligence yet on whether the Kabul attack was planned in Pakistan.
Taliban insurgents mounted spectacular synchronised attacks on government buildings, Western embassies and Nato headquarters in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday.
As if in a knee-jerk reaction, US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker said that the attacks carried the signature of the Haqqani network – the deadliest of all Taliban factions.
Speaking at a press briefing at Pentagon with Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday, Gen Dempsey said Haqqani network fighters were present on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and declined to comment on whether the attack was planned in Pakistan until the US had received evidence.
To a question, Secretary Panetta said there was no question that the Haqqanis were based in Pakistan. “They have also moved across the border and operate in enclaves in Afghanistan. There is a concern that they continue to find safe haven in Pakistan. We have made clear to the Pakistanis that this is not tolerable,” he added.
Panetta said they had intelligence indicating that the Haqqani network was behind Sunday’s attacks in Kabul. “We had received a great deal of intelligence that the Haqqanis were planning these kinds of attacks,” he added. Secretary Panetta said the attacks reflect that the Taliban are resilient, and this was the beginning of their spring offensive. However, he added that they believed that with the Afghan army, the US would be able to combat these attacks. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, meanwhile, telephoned Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and discussed the likely fallout of the attacks. Though Pakistan’s foreign ministry was quiet about the telephone conversation, the US State Department confirmed that Secretary Clinton discussed with Khar their shared responsibility to confront militants.
Both “discussed the cowardly attacks in Afghanistan,” the State Department said in a statement. “Secretary Clinton underscored our shared responsibility for robust action … to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists.”
A Pakistani Foreign Office official told The Express Tribune that the government was concerned about the likely implications for Islamabad in the wake of the Kabul assault.
“This certainly puts more pressure on us,” acknowledged the official while requesting anonymity.
On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari also condemned the ‘terrorist attacks’ in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
According to his spokesman, the president expressed the resolve that people and government of Pakistan would continue to stand with their Afghan brethren in their time of distress and difficulty.
“Pakistan has always desired a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan as it was in Pakistan’s own national interest,” Zardari added.
The president also directed Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq to ensure security and safety of women parliamentarians’ who are currently on a visit to Afghanistan.
(With additional reporting by Kamran Yousaf in Islamabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.