ISLAMABAD: Despite renewed US pressure to eliminate ‘terrorist safe havens’ from the tribal belt, the Pakistan Army has no plans to launch a full-scale offensive against the Haqqani network, military officials said.
The issue was raised by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen at a meeting with Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Seville, Spain, on the sidelines of the ongoing Nato conference.
The development may further sour already strained relations between the two anti-terror war allies.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that a meeting between the two had taken place, but would not share any details. However, sources say the two military commanders discussed the fallout of a recent attack in Kabul, which the US suspect was carried out by militants from the Haqqani network, which is allegedly based in the North Waziristan Agency.
The deadly attack has become the latest obstacle to normal ties between Islamabad and Washington, which have deteriorated steadily since the May 2 US raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Since then the US has intensified efforts to push Pakistan to clamp down on the Haqqanis, blamed for this week’s 20-hour-long assault on the US embassy in Kabul.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, expressing his frustration over Pakistan’s continued reluctance to go after the Afghan insurgent group, has threatened to take unilateral action.
A statement issued by the ISPR said that Kayani delivered a talk on ‘Pakistan’s role in the global war on terror’ at the meeting of Nato Chiefs of Defence. Kayani reportedly highlighted the sacrifices given by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism. He also spoke of Pakistan’s expectations of support from the rest of the world.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Captain John Kirby, Special Assistant for Public Affairs for the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that General Kayani had been invited to Seville by alliance leaders to brief them on his efforts to combat extremist elements inside Pakistan. “He has done this before, and when he does, the Chairman always schedules some private time with him. I expect they will talk about ongoing operations in the border areas, about mutual efforts to improve cooperation and about the continuing and growing threat posed by the Haqqani network.”
However, in his talk Kayani underlined Pakistan’s sovereign right to formulate policy “in accordance with its national interests and the wishes of the Pakistani people.” Kayani did not name a specific country but a security official said his remarks “were certainly referring to the American pressure on Pakistan to do things which we believe are not in our national interest.”
The official, who requested to remain anonymous, confirmed that the US was increasing pressure on the army to conduct operations in North Waziristan. He said Pakistan, despite US demands, will not commit to any such offensive in the near future.
A senior military official refused to comment on the meeting between Kayani and Mullen. However, he added that the Pakistan Army cannot give any time frame for assaults in the restive tribal agency bordering Afghanistan.
Defence analysts say going after the Haqqani network at this stage will have huge repercussions for the country.
Meanwhile, tensions between Islamabad and Washington overshadowed the meeting of senior Pakistani and Afghan diplomats.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin said his country would not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan. He termed the meeting as ‘substantive’, saying some concrete steps and proposals were identified to take action against extremists.
Ludin insisted that the outcome of the talks would be visible before the Karzai-Gilani meeting next month.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2011.
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