The top US military officer said on Sunday Afghan militants of the Haqqani network were finding it harder to move into Afghanistan but warned that their safe havens in Pakistan still posed a risk to the decade-old war effort.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, travelled earlier in the day to eastern Afghanistan where Haqqani militants are attacking US forces.
“The overall goal has been to make it much more difficult for the Haqqani network to penetrate directly in what has previously been called sort of this ‘jet stream’ between Pakistan, right through Khost province into Kabul,” Mullen told a news conference.
“And it is more difficult (now).”
Based in North Waziristan area on the Afghan border, Haqqani refrains from attacking Pakistan, and critics
say Islamabad sees the network as a lever to maintain influence in any future political settlement in Afghanistan.
Mullen has in the past accused Pakistani intelligence of having a ‘longstanding relationship’ with Haqqani faction.
He told reporters in Kabul that Washington continued to press Islamabad to go after the safe havens enjoyed by the Haqqani group and other militants.
“The safe havens that exist in Pakistan are a central and great risk in terms of the achievement of the overall strategy,” Mullen said.
“So we continue to engage on that, continue to bring pressure on that. But I would be hard pressed to tell you time and place, when it’s going to happen.”
A Nato military official acknowledged that there was only a minimal chance that the Haqqani threat could be eliminated.
“If something happens on the other side of the border and those sanctuaries get reduced ... that’s great,” the official said. “We’re not counting on it. What we are trying to do is to build the Afghans’ capacity so they can handle that.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.