ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Saturday warned the United States against sending ground troops to her country to fight an Afghan militant group that America alleges is used as a proxy by Pakistan’s top intelligence agency for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
The warning came as a top U.S. military commander was in Pakistan for talks with the army chief at a time of intense strain between the two countries. The U.S. Embassy said Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, arrived in Pakistan late Friday, and that he will meet the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Ties between Islamabad and Washington are in crisis after American officials stepped up accusations that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence was aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, including those who took part in an attack on the U.S. Embassy last week in Kabul.
“It opens all kinds of doors and all kinds of options,” she told Pakistan’s private Aaj News TV from New York. The comment was in response to a question about the possibility of U.S. troops coming to Pakistan.
“If many of your goals are not achieved, you do not make someone a scapegoat,” she said, addressing the U.S.
The U.S. allegations have seen a strong reaction from Pakistan.
Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, said on Friday that the charges were baseless and part of a public “blame game” detrimental to peace in Afghanistan. Other Islamabad officials urged Washington to present evidence for such a serious allegation. Khar warned the United States is risking losing an ally in the war on terror.
The row began when Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday accused the ISI agency of supporting Haqqani insurgents in planning and executing last week’s 22-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy and a truck bombing that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier.
Kayani said the allegations were “very unfortunate and not based on facts.”
The claims were the most serious yet by an American official against nuclear-armed Pakistan, which Washington has given billions in civilian and military aid over the last 10 years to try to secure its cooperation inside Afghanistan and against al-Qaida.
The Haqqani insurgent network is widely believed to be based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border. The group has historical ties to Pakistani intelligence, dating back to the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The relationship between the two countries has never been smooth, but it took one of its hardest hits when U.S. commandos slipped into Pakistan on May 2 without informing the Pakistanis of their mission and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a garrison town not far from Islamabad.