Strained partnership: US troubled by ‘role of safe havens’

Published: April 30, 2011
The Pentagon says Afghan violence rising amidst troop surge, terms ‘insurgent infiltration’ from Pakistan a major headache.

The Pentagon says Afghan violence rising amidst troop surge, terms ‘insurgent infiltration’ from Pakistan a major headache.


A senior US Defence Department official on Friday expressed concern over the alleged “role of safe havens” for the Afghan Taliban and “actors” in Pakistan, calling it a significant challenge for Washington.

Speaking at the briefing during the Pentagon’s release of a six-month report on the situation in Afghanistan, the official said he was “100 per cent” in agreement with Admiral Mike Mullen’s assessment that elements in the directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have links with the Haqqani network. He also claimed that both the Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban leaderships were located primarily either in the south or in the north around Peshawar.

About the US expectations from Pakistan, he said that “what we’re looking for is continued, increased cooperation with the Pakistanis on the border.”

Though the official admitted that considerable cooperation existed between Washington and Islamabad in several areas, he said there are “other areas that we’re seeking much more improvement”. “And that’s something we’ll continue to look at very closely. It’s certainly an area of strategic risk.”

The Pentagon official said the reintegration of Taliban fighters who were in Pakistan before could mitigate against a risk of those existing safe havens.

“The fact that there are people who are coming in to reintegrate and the fact that there are people — some of those people who are coming in to reintegrate are people who were in Pakistan before.” “But it’s still going to be a huge challenge,” he said.

The US is encouraging Pakistan to do everything possible to deal with safe havens for terrorists in the country, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan  Marc Grossman was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying.

“We are encouraging Pakistan to do everything possible to deal with the safe havens…..which will also play a big role in bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Grossman told reporters after his meeting with Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao Rao.

Asked about the recent remarks of chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen accusing the ISI of backing the Haqqani network, he said, “I have nothing to add or to subtract to whatever Mullen has already said. We do a huge amount of work with Pakistan in countering terrorism and extremism and that’s what we will continue doing.”

After India, Grossman also plans to visit Kabul, Islamabad and Riyadh.

The latest Pentagon report noted that a surge of foreign troops into Afghanistan had dealt a blow to the Taliban insurgency but total violence had risen since last fall.

The increase in overall security incidents, which includes roadside bombs, direct fire and other violent acts, was due in part to the surge of foreign troops, stepped up targeting of insurgent safe havens, and mild winter weather.

“The surge in forces and an increased operational tempo have enabled (the Nato-led force in Afghanistan) to disrupt and degrade the insurgency’s capabilities, contributing to a loss of Taliban influence in key areas,” the report said.

As US President Barack Obama sent an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, violence hit its highest level in 2010 since the war began almost a decade ago.

The Pentagon warned that “hard fighting” was likely ahead in 2011 as the Taliban, adapting its techniques to match intensified attacks from foreign adversaries, would try to regain areas of south Afghanistan that they had lost in 2010. They said recent intelligence reporting indicated that the attacks planned by the Taliban, supported by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and other insurgents, would include suicide bombings.

Petraeus: commander in three wars?

A report in The Washington Post said that General David Petraeus, the freshly nominated CIA director, has served as commander in two wars launched by the US after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. If confirmed as the next CIA director, the paper said Petraeus would effectively take command of a third in Pakistan.

Petraeus’s nomination comes at a time when the CIA functions, more than ever in its history, as an extension of the nation’s lethal military force.

The CIA is in the midst of what amounts to a sustained bombing campaign over Pakistan using unmanned Predator and Reaper drones.

Since Obama took office there have been at least 192 drone missile strikes. Petraeus is seen as a staunch supporter of the drone campaign.

With input from wire services and the desk

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.


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Reader Comments (13)

  • WTF
    Apr 30, 2011 - 8:18AM

    Yes, just conveniently shift the blame to cover up the mess. If you knew you were going to get your a** kicked in Afghanistan, why did you even go there in the first place?Recommend

  • Apr 30, 2011 - 8:44AM

    No one even denys the presence of safe heavens anymore. Has anyone stopped to ask the Afghan people what there perception is on militants streaming both ways across the border? Or do we just assume that they view them as heroes? Recommend

  • Muammad Saeed Akhter
    Apr 30, 2011 - 9:32AM

    I fear fierce days to come in near future. Let us see how our side respond to it? Recommend

  • Chilli
    Apr 30, 2011 - 10:19AM

    US and NATO failures need a valid reason to satisfy their tax payers. Their ill planned and civillian butchering policy has left them alone in Afghan war. They are fast loosing patience and need to escape quick. Pakistan is being forced into new conflict to stretch and hamper its Army. Pakistan should consider its priorities first then obey US commands. CIA and RAW already shown their footprints in Baluchistan and other parts of the country to dismantle Pakistan once army is engaged in Waziristan.Recommend

  • J Oberoi
    Apr 30, 2011 - 10:54AM

    I would love to know what Pakistan has gained by supporting terrorists. As of now, they have only lost on account of supporting terrorism. This is perhaps the first time that more than one country has been inferring that Pakistan’s state actors are involved in supporting terrorists.
    It remains to be seen how this will play out in the long run. Pakistan now has to firmly lodge itself in the Chinese camp if they want aid. The Chinese don’t open up their wallets as freely as the Americans do. Recommend

  • Apr 30, 2011 - 11:36AM

    The drone attacks are within Pakistan not inside Afghanistan. The USA has expanded its war in Pakistan. Pakistan has become what had Cambodia and Laos had become during the USA’s war in Vietnam. When the USA was not making any headway fighting against the Vietnamese directly, Cambodia and Laos were bombed relentlessly. That policy failed. The former Soviet Union during its war only fought in Afghanistan not beyond. But the USA military strategy is destroy everything surrounding the invaded country.Recommend

  • ba ha
    Apr 30, 2011 - 11:45AM

    If there ever was a time to test new technology now is it. Death-tolls speak louder than politicians in Washington.Recommend

  • NA
    Apr 30, 2011 - 11:48AM

    A systematic jingle by US against Pakistan at this specific time when withdrawal from Afg is very near nothing but fooling US public back home for their own failure. It is also a tactic being used by US to pressurize Pakistan to accept unwanted demands. US understands that without Pak’s involvement, resolution of Afghanistan is imposible and there is difference of opinion on both sides on post US Afg, so the process has been started to pave the way towards Pak for blaming the failure.Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Apr 30, 2011 - 12:53PM

    Well so far with Pakistan’s involvement, not much has been achieved !! This is solely due to Pak Policy on not taking action in NW and being very selective as to who, they even attempt to go after! Further more due to Pak support of the banned organistaions and support for its leader too!
    The Pak claims that “there is lack of evidence to take action against those leaders” is purely a policy statement of the Pak Institutions !!
    The Pak Govt lacks the foresight to see where this will lead them in near future in terms of economic, Social and its reputation on the world stage!
    But i suppose that’s the least of concerns for the policy makers in Pakistan, as they have never really had any foresight in its dealings or to realise its consequenses!!!!Recommend

  • pl/sql
    Apr 30, 2011 - 12:55PM

    It’s a pity that Pakistanis need more suicide bombings in their cities to convince them that harboring terrorists for strategic depth is not a good idea.Recommend

    Apr 30, 2011 - 2:24PM

    The safe havens provided to so called assets is going to hurt Pakistan more than the Americans who anyway are going to leave Afghanistan by 2014.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Apr 30, 2011 - 6:50PM

    This has been a consistent message from the USA from day 1 – but previously most of these comments have been made in private – now most of them are being made in public. I suspect this public rhetoric is part of laying the ground work for a fundamental change in USA policy towards Pakistan – suspect this doesn’t bode well for Pakistan.Recommend

  • joy
    Apr 30, 2011 - 7:24PM

    while i refrain from commenting on US-Pak relations……there is a doubt in the back of my mind. Will US really leave Afghanistan?.after all its so strategically situated. the oil rich central asian states, gas rich russia, US’s biggest trading partner China..all in the neighbourhood

    for my pakistani friends..I got just this to say….stop depending on others, tighten your belts, take some hard decisions and set your goals for 2020……
    remember till 1990s India also used to go around with a begging bowl…..for some Pakistanis India is the enemy NO. 1..although I dont share that view. but.all i need to ask such people….is there any harm in learning from the enenmy?



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