Pakistan’s haven for terror unit irks U.S.

Clinton to meet with key delegates

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With U.S.-Pakistani strategic talks set to start in Washington on Wednesday, the Obama administration is growing increasingly frustrated with Islamabad’s reluctance to shut down a terrorist group that provides safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan.

U.S. officials, who have said the United States is supporting peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, will express their displeasure with Pakistan’s failure to crush the Haqqani Network’s operations that aid the Taliban and al Qaeda.

“We continue to call on the government of Pakistan to take action against the organizations that support the insurgency, that operate sanctuaries for the Afghan Taliban … including organizations operating out of North Waziristan like the Haqqani Network,” Frank Ruggiero, deputy U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will lead delegations to the dialogue, the third of its kind this year. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani also will participate in the dialogue.

One Western official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the Haqqani Network as a “Pakistani puppet” and said it could be a spoiler in ongoing reconciliation efforts with elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

What’s more, a U.S. official said the Haqqani Network has American blood on its hands and is regularly involved in attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network enjoys support from elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus who see the group as a proxy in protecting Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. The network operates in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, along the border with Afghanistan, where the Pakistani military has been reluctant to go after militants.

According to Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive security issues, the Haqqanis receive training, weapons and even some operational support from the Pakistanis while executing attacks in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian interests.

Meanwhile, an Indian government report on the interrogation of David Coleman Headley, an American convicted of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, concludes that he and the attackers received extensive assistance from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Under questioning by Indian officials, Headley painted a detailed picture of how intertwined ISI was with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group accused of carrying out the attack that killed 166 people, according to the secret report, which was obtained by the Associated Press.

In March, Headley pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attack as well as preparing for an attack in Denmark.

Headley said the ISI provided individual handlers — many of them senior officers — for all the top members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and gave them directions and money to carry out their reconnaissance of prospective targets, the report states.

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s chief military commander, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, was close to the director general of the spy agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the report said.

“According to Headley, every big action of LeT is done in close coordination with ISI,” it added.

Pakistani officials have dismissed the report as baseless, as well as previous charges that the ISI has worked with anti-India terrorist groups.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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