BY SUZANNE PRESTO – The State Department said Monday that the United States remains confident it can work with the Pakistani government, despite concerns that Pakistan’s intelligence service supports the Haqqani network – a militant group blamed for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that there are “very clear challenges” for the United States and Pakistan. Still, he said, U.S. officials believe they can work constructively with Pakistani authorities to address concerns about the Haqqani network.
“We recognize very clearly that this is an area of concern, and we’ve identified that,” said Toner. “We’ve raised it at the highest levels with the Pakistanis. We’ve said, ‘You know, we need to take action against the Haqqani network,’ and we’re committed at this point to working constructively with them to do that. We recognize that this is a clear threat to our security in Afghanistan.”
U.S. officials say the Haqqani network is responsible for an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul earlier this month and a prior assault on a NATO outpost south of the Afghan capital as well as other attacks.
The outgoing chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, linked the Haqqani network to the government in Islamabad. Mullen made the comments at a U.S. Senate hearing last week.
“The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s internal services intelligence agency,” said Mullen. “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy.”
The Haqqani network is based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province, a tribal area along the border with Afghanistan.
State Department Spokesman Mark Toner:
“We believe that these kind of safe havens are extremely troubling and, indeed, a matter of great concern and [a] dangerous development for both the United States and for Pakistan,” he said. “So we want to see action taken against them.”
Earlier Monday, Pakistani and foreign media quoted anonymous Pakistani security officials as saying Islamabad will not launch an offensive against the Haqqani network.
Toner said he had seen the news reports, but that he had not seen such statements by Pakistani officials. He added that he would not discuss private U.S. conversations with Pakistan’s government, and he reiterated that the United States is committed to the bilateral relationship.
Pakistan repeatedly has rejected U.S. accusations that it aides militants. On Sunday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said his nation has no links to the Haqqani network.
The U.S. State Department has not added the Haqqani network to its list of terrorist organizations. But Toner said that is under review.