NEW YORK: White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday called on Pakistan to “break any link they have” with the Haqqani terror network, blamed for attacks in Afghanistan including the recent strike on the US embassy in Kabul.
“We know that the Haqqani network was responsible for the attacks on our embassy in Kabul,” Carney said.
“We know that the Haqqani network operates from safe havens in Pakistan, and that the government of Pakistan has not taken action against those safe havens. This has been a longstanding concern of the United States, and one that we discussed with Pakistan, in public and in private,” he said.
Carney said that it was “critical” that Pakistan “break any links they have and take strong and immediate action against this network so they are no longer a threat to the United States or to the people of Pakistan.”
Pakistan warns US: ‘You will lose an ally’ if accusations continue
Earlier on Thursday Pakistan’s foreign minister said that the United States risks losing an ally if it continues to publicly criticise Islamabad’s performance in the war against militancy.
“You will lose an ally,” Hina Rabbani Khar told Geo TV in New York.
“You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States’) own cost.”
Khar was responding to Senate testimony by the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who said Pakistan’s top spy agency was closely tied to the Haqqani Network, the most violent and effective faction in the Afghan Taliban insurgency.
Mullen said on Thursday that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) played a role in the September 13 attack on the US embassy in Kabul, supporting militants known as the Haqqani network. That network, he said, is a “veritable arm” of the ISI.
The embassy attack was the latest in a series of violent episodes that have set back US efforts to bring the Afghan war to a peaceful close.
Mullen’s comments and Khar’s retort mark an unusual escalation of rhetoric between the allies in the struggle against militants and, at least in public, marks a low point in their relationship.
“At the operational level it will be appropriate to say that there are serious difficulties (between the two countries),” Khar told Geo.
In a separate interview with India’s NDTV, Khar added: “Pointing fingers at each other will not help. Finding scapegoats will not help … We want to be a mature, responsible country that is fighting terrorism with a lot of maturity.”
The tensions could have repercussions across Asia, from India, Pakistan’s economically booming arch-rival, to China, which has edged closer to Pakistan in recent years. A complete break between the United States and Pakistan – sometimes friends, often adversaries – seems unlikely, if only because the United States depends on Pakistan as a route to supply US troops in Afghanistan, and as a base for unmanned US drones.
Pakistan relies on Washington for military and economic aid and for acting as a backer on the world stage. Washington does not want to see further instability in the nuclear-armed country.
But support in the US Congress for curbing assistance or making conditions on aid more stringent is rising rapidly. And Mullen, CIA Director David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all met their Pakistani counterparts in recent days to demand Islamabad rein in militants.
‘Tough messages have been delivered to Pakistan on Haqqani Network’
Amidst harsh public statements on the Haqqani Network to Pakistan from the US government, a US government official told The Express Tribune, “There shouldn’t be any doubt that tough messages have been delivered — from all levels of the US government — to Pakistan on the Haqqani network.”
However, the official speaking on background to The Express Tribune said, “the US-Pakistan relationship continues to have real strategic value for both countries, and both countries are committed to continuing to discuss those issues where our interests diverge.”
The statement follows Admiral Mike Mullen’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee where he accused the Haqqani Network of being supported by the ISI and being responsible for the attack in Kabul carried out on September 13.
Joint operation against terrorists: Mukhtar
Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar on Thursday advised Washington to formulate a joint strategy for an operation against the Haqqani network.
The defence minister was responding to a question in Karachi on the recent warnings of the United States, following the accusation that the ISI was involved in the attacks blamed on the Haqqani network.
Mukhtar stated that if the Haqqani network is the target, then both countries should devise a strategy and take unilateral action against the group.
He was of the view that the US cannot choose to alienate Pakistan at this moment.
He also denied allegations that the ISI was supporting the militant group led by Sirajuddin Haqqani.
He urged Washington to share proof of their accusations before making them public.