Pakistan lashes out at US over Afghan accusations

AFP , Friday 23 Sep 2011

Pakistan warns the United States that it could lose an ally if it continues to publicly accuse Islamabad of exporting violence to Afghanistan and being involved in attacks on US targets

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (photo: AFP)

In the most stinging American indictment yet of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen accused the spy agency of involvement in two recent attacks on US interests in Afghanistan.

Pakistan flatly denies sponsoring violence in Afghanistan, but its military has historical ties to the Taliban and other Islamist militant commanders fighting American soldiers in the 10-year war across the border.

"We have also conveyed this to the United States, that you will lose an ally. You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan. You cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told private Geo TV.

"If you are choosing to do so, and if they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost," she said.

Khar, who became foreign minister only two months ago and has attracted wide attention for her relative youth and stylish dressing, condemned the allegations as humiliating.

"Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it, is not acceptable," she told the Pakistani station in New York, where has been attending the UN General Assembly.

Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday accused Pakistan of "exporting" violent extremism to Afghanistan through proxies and warned of possible action to protect American troops, without providing any details of either.

He called the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network a "veritable arm" of the ISI, becoming the latest in a series of American leaders to demand that Pakistan take action against the network whose leadership is based in its tribal belt.

Mullen accused the ISI of backing this month's truck bombing on a NATO base that wounded 77 Americans; a 19-hour siege on the US embassy in Kabul; and a June attack on the InterContinental hotel in Kabul all blamed on the Haqqanis.

Pakistani-US relations sank to a new nadir after the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden on the doorstep of Pakistan's top military academy on May 2, but in recent months had appeared to recover slightly.

Mullen's remarks were even more stark considering that for years he has been a key pointman for American efforts to improve relations with Pakistan and that he has tended to employ more diplomatic language on Pakistan in public.

There have been a flurry of meetings -- between Mullen and Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani in Spain last week -- as well as between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Khar dominated by terrorism issues.

Fears are now growing in Pakistan that an avalanche of American demands for action on the Haqqani network is more than just wanting a scapegoat for American setbacks in the long Afghan war.

"It is a very complex situation. Pakistan is facing great danger of coming under the wrath of US administration," political and defence analyst Talat Masood told AFP.

"There is a big question mark whether Pakistan is really supporting the militant networks, because it has been doing so in the past," he added.

Yet it remains unclear what action America could take against Pakistan or the Haqqanis, other than the CIA drone war that already targets Haqqani fighters, along with Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets in northwest Pakistan.

The US warnings carry particular weight in the aftermath of the bin Laden killing, an operation that angered and embarrassed Pakistani leaders and exposed its intelligence services to accusations of incompetence or complicity.

As Pakistan and the United States appeared headed on a collision course, Pakistani Interior Minister this week promised action against the Haqqanis if Washington provided sufficient intelligence.

Back in Pakistan on Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani adopted a more circumspect response to the furore created by Mullen's remarks.

"We want our relations with the US to be based on mutual respect and mutual interest," he told reporters in Karachi.

"Our request to US would be that it should keep political space for us so that we can communicate their political importance to our people," he said.

"I will tell them -- if they can't live without us then they should increase contacts with us to remove misunderstandings."

Short link: