US presses Pakistan to go after Haqqani network
* US envoy to Afghanistan says recent attacks planned in Pakistan
* Solution to Haqqani problem would be found in Pakistan
KABUL: The American ambassador to Afghanistan on Thursday demanded that Pakistan go after the Haqqani network, saying there was “no question” that the group mounted attacks on Kabul and other areas over the weekend.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker described the Haqqanis as “a group of killers, pure and simple”, and said they may be a faction of the Afghan insurgency that is irreconcilable. He argued that the solution to the Haqqani problem would be found in Pakistan.
“I don’t think it’s a question of going to war with Pakistan to solve this problem. It’s getting the Pakistanis to take the necessary action themselves to eliminate a threat not only to Afghanistan and the United States but also to Pakistan,” Crocker said.
“There is no question in our mind that the Haqqanis were responsible for these attacks,” he told reporters. “We know where their leadership lives and we know where these plans are made. They’re not made in Afghanistan. They’re made in Miranshah which is in North Waziristan, which is in Pakistan.”
Though the death toll was relatively low considering the scale of the assault, it highlighted the ability of terrorists to strike high-profile targets in the heart of the capital even after more than 10 years of war.
The United States has repeatedly urged Pakistan’s military to launch a major offensive in North Waziristan to go after the Haqqanis. Pakistan says it is already stretched fighting homegrown Taliban elsewhere near the Afghan border.
Pakistan, recipient of billions of dollars in US aid, sees the Haqqanis as a strategic asset that acts as a counterweight to the influence of rival India in Afghanistan, analysts say. Pakistan denies that claim.
“Thousands of Pakistanis have died in terrorist actions inside Pakistan from individuals and groups that are in these so-called safe haven areas,” said Crocker. “So they really need to take action and that is going to be a major part of our dialogue going forward. That’s what we are pressing them to do.”
The US assertion that the Haqqanis were behind the recent attacks on Kabul and elsewhere, and renewed calls for Pakistani action against the group, could deepen strains in the strategic alliance between Washington and Islamabad.
A Pakistani intelligence official expressed concern that the American assertion would bring renewed pressure on Pakistan to launch a major operation in North Waziristan, home to some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. “What we are worried about is the pressure that’s going to come over North Waziristan,” he told Reuters. “We have no connection to the attack.”
After an attack on the US embassy in Kabul in September, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service.
Ties have suffered since US special forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a unilateral raid on Pakistan soil in May last year, embarrassing Pakistan’s powerful military.
A November 26 NATO cross-border air attack which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers plunged relations to a low point.
The Haqqani network, which is linked to al Qaeda, says it is no longer based in Pakistan and operates only from Afghanistan because it had made serious battlefield gains.
Because it has the most seasoned fighters, and commanders who gained experience fighting Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Haqqanis are considered the most lethal terrorists. agencies