In an almost anti-climactic end to its weeks-long stream of belligerent posturing against Islamabad, Washington said on Friday that it has no plans for cross border raids into Pakistan’s tribal regions.
A senior US official said that Washington has communicated to Islamabad that its troops will not be sent into the North Waziristan tribal region to hunt down Taliban militants.
Over the last few weeks, the US has repeated the allegation that the Haqqani network -- the deadliest of all three Taliban groups – was using safe havens in North Wazirstan, to mount attacks on US-led Nato troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.
(Read: Making the right decision)
The two uneasy allies have engaged in a diplomatic fusillade over the last week after outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s top military spy agency – Inter-Services Intelligence.
Despite stout denials by Islamabad, Washington continued to take the point further, warning that it intended to keep its options open in retaliation for the recent attacks on its well-fortified mission in Kabul.
The threats sounded menacing to many Pakistanis, who feared action from American ground troops.
However, a US official ruled out the possibility of “any boots on the ground. “That has been communicated to them (the Pakistanis),” the official told Reuters. In Washington, President Barack Obama said Pakistan must “take care” of the Haqqani network.
While he did not endorse the accusations made by Mullen, Obama said US intelligence was not entirely clear on links between Haqqani operatives and Pakistani spy agencies.
“I think Mike’s testimony expressed frustration over the fact that safe havens exist,” Obama said, but added that “the intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is.”
“But my attitude is whether there is active engagement with Haqqani on the part of the Pakistanis or just passively allowing them to operate with impunity … they have got to take care of this problem,” he said in a radio interview.
US officials have been trying to soothe tempers frayed by Admiral Mullen’s statement, with the State Department on Thursday refusing to endorse his allegations.
Despite his serious allegations, Admiral Mullen believes that there could be no solution to the Afghan imbroglio without Pakistan. “I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership,” Mullen said on Friday at a ceremony to hand over to the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
(Read: Change of guard - No solution in Afghanistan minus Pakistan, says Mullen)
Over in Brussels, the Nato chief said that Pakistan must fight against “terrorists” enjoying safe havens in the tribal regions. “We encourage the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government to do their utmost to fight extremism and terrorism in the border region,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a defence forum hosted by the European Policy Centre think-tank.
“It is a security problem for our troops in Afghanistan that terrorists have safe havens in Pakistan … and that’s a fact,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2011.
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