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Mullen: Pakistanis export violence to Afghanistan
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. military officer on Thursday accused Pakistan of “exporting violence” to Afghanistan and said it puts in jeopardy not only the frayed U.S.-Pakistani partnership against terrorism but also the prospects for a successful outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.
In his final congressional testimony before retiring next week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said success in Afghanistan is threatened not only by the Pakistani government’s support for the Haqqani network and other al-Qaeda-aligned extremist groups but also by Afghan government corruption.
“If we continue to draw down forces apace while such public and systemic corruption is left unchecked,” Adm. Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I believe we risk leaving behind a government in which we cannot reasonably expect Afghans to have faith. At best, this would lead to localized conflicts inside the country; at worst, it could lead to government collapse and civil war.”
Adm. Mullen said Pakistan’s government has chosen to “use violent extremism as an instrument of policy,” adding that “by exporting violence, they have eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being.”
Testifying alongside Adm. Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also decried Pakistani support for the Haqqani network, and he said Pakistani authorities have been told in unequivocal terms that the U.S. will not tolerate a continuation of the group’s cross-border attacks. Mr. Panetta said the message was delivered recently by new CIA Director David H. Petraeus in a meeting with the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI.
“They must take steps to prevent the safe haven that the Haqqanis are using,” Mr. Panetta said. “We simply cannot allow these kinds of terrorists to be able to go into Afghanistan, attack our forces and then return to Pakistan for safe haven.”
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, who is chairman of the committee, pressed Mr. Panetta on what options are available to the U.S. to go after the Haqqani network. Mr. Panetta declined to go into details in public but made clear that the Pakistanis know what might happen.
“I don’t think they would be surprised by the actions we might or might not take,” he said.
The remarks by Adm. Mullen and Mr. Panetta highlight a notable shift in the administration’s approach to Pakistan. Whereas U.S. officials previously kept their strongest criticisms of Pakistan private, in recent days they have been explicit in linking the government to extremists who are attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The increasingly tough U.S. rhetoric reflects a U.S. belief that Pakistani intelligence in recent months has more aggressively facilitated cross-border attacks by the Haqqanis, one senior military official said Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Mr. Panetta also said U.S. and Afghan forces are searching for ways to better defend against spectacular attacks by insurgents, such as the assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul last week.
In his first congressional testimony since taking office, Mr. Panetta said it is important to limit insurgents’ ability to create the perception that security in the Afghan capital is deteriorating.
Overall, he said, the U.S. and NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan is “headed in the right direction.”
In recent days, administration officials have taken a harsher tone toward Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, a band of Islamist fighters who the U.S. says are behind attacks in Afghanistan, including last week’s attack on the American Embassy in Kabul.
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