Pakistan ‘will not launch’ Haqqani offensive

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan will not launch an offensive against Haqqani extremists despite Washington ramping up the pressure after a series of attacks on US targets in Afghanistan, an official said Monday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Mon 26 Sep 2011, 6:13 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:58 AM

The alliance between Pakistan and the United States in the 10-year war in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda hit rock bottom this year in the wake of the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad on May 2.

In a series of escalating rows, Washington accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of involvement in the September 13 attack on its embassy in Kabul and a September 11 attack on a NATO base in central Afghanistan.

The White House has since demanded that Pakistan “break any link they have” with the Haqqani network, which was founded by former CIA asset Jalaluddin Haqqani and is today run by his son Sirajuddin — based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s army chief of staff called his top generals for an extraordinary meeting at the weekend to discuss the series of stinging American rebukes blaming the Haqqanis and Pakistani intelligence for recent attacks.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is now expected to call a rare cross-party conference, although he has dismissed the American allegations as little more than finding a scapegoat for US “disarray” in the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think the indicators are as such,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP when asked if the army was going to launch an operation in North Waziristan, part of the country’s semi-autonomous tribal belt.

Instead, he said, the military needs to “consolidate gains” made against local militants who pose a security threat elsewhere in the tribal region that Washington has branded an Al-Qaeda headquarters.

Pakistan has around 140,000 troops based along its northwest that borders Afghanistan and says more than 3,000 soldiers have been killed since 2001 — more than the 2,735 Western soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

General James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command which oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on Sunday became the most senior US commander to hold talks with Pakistani generals in Islamabad since last week’s public US accusations of Pakistani involvement with the Haqqanis.

In a curt statement after the talks, the Pakistani military said it was committed to achieving “enduring peace in the region” — something it said was only possible “through mutual trust and cooperation”.

But the Pakistani official told AFP that troops were too busy countering cross-border attacks from Afghanistan and local Pakistani militants in other parts of the tribal belt to take on the Haqqanis.

“These are kind of more pressing issues that we have to tackle. We have to consolidate the gains in Mohmand and in other tribal and northwestern regions after a series of operations in these areas,” the security official said.

“As for North Waziristan, the army has at least five brigades there, which is enough to take care of the situation. There is a complete tribal structure in the region to help security forces deal with the militants and outlaws.”

Last week, the outgoing top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, bluntly accused Pakistan of “exporting” violent extremism to Afghanistan through proxies and warned of possible action to protect US troops.

Some Pakistanis interpret the accusations as a search for a scapegoat for US failings in Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency is deadlier than ever and from where Washington plans to recall all combat troops by 2014.

Analysts believe Pakistan lacks the capacity to take on the Haqqanis and that the American response is limited to an already active drone war against militants in the tribal belt and further economic sanctions.

Washington has already decided to withhold almost a third of its annual $2.7 billion security assistance to Islamabad.

“They can apply economic sanctions and increase drone attacks,” political and security analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

As an ally, Pakistan has repeatedly rejected American ground incursions — such as the May 2 bin Laden raid — and any North Waziristan offensive would not only be deadly, but hugely costly for the Americans diplomatically.

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