Islamabad admits its failure on safe havens

Although it has again denied supporting militant organizations, Pakistan unexpectedly admits that safe havens for militants exist within its borders as Clinton warns Pakistan not to harm itself by failing to fight against militants.
Clinton (L) speaks as Khar looks on during a joint news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on Oct. 21, 2011. Clinton said that extremists have been able to operate from Pakistani soil for too long, increasing pressure on Islamabad to crack down on Islamist militants destabilizing Afghanistan who are allegedly supported by the government. AP Photo.

Clinton (L) speaks as Khar looks on during a joint news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on Oct. 21, 2011. Clinton said that extremists have been able to operate from Pakistani soil for too long, increasing pressure on Islamabad to crack down on Islamist militants destabilizing Afghanistan who are allegedly supported by the government. AP Photo.

Pakistan has admitted that it could cooperate more and achieve better results in clamping down on militant safe havens on its soil but ruled out any question of official support for militants.

Following talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recognized that militants have safe havens on both sides of the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Do safe havens exist? Yes, they exist on both sides. Do we need to cooperate? Yes. We can cooperate more and achieve better results,” Khar said Oct. 21. It was not immediately clear how that would translate into firm action as Pakistan’s powerful military is considered the chief arbiter of security policy.

Khar insisted that Pakistan took the terror threat facing its country and the region “very seriously” and denied U.S. accusations that elements within its intelligence services support the Haqqani network and other Afghan militants. “There is no question of any support by any Pakistani institutions to safe havens. Let me be very clear and unequivocal on that,” she added.

The United States called on Pakistan to take action within “days and weeks” on dismantling Afghan militant havens and encouraging the Taliban into peace talks in order to end 10 years of war. “We look to Pakistan to take strong steps to deny Afghan insurgents’ safe havens and to encourage the Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith,” said Clinton.

The U.S. was looking for operational action over “not months and years, but days and weeks because we have a lot of work to do to realize our shared goals,” Clinton said.

Clinton appeared to extract recognition from Pakistan that it could do more in clamping down on Afghan insurgents using Pakistani soil to attack Americans, but offered no details on how.

“We asked very specifically for greater cooperation from the Pakistani side to squeeze the Haqqani network and other terrorists. Trying to eliminate terrorists and safe havens on one side of the border is not going to work.” Clinton said. “It’s like that old story: you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.”

Clinton spent Oct. 21 locked in talks with Pakistani leaders following a four-hour session late Oct. 20 in neighboring Afghanistan that was designed to hasten an end to one of America’s longest wars. Unusually accompanied by CIA director David Petraeus and top U.S. military officer Gen. Martin Dempsey, she said Islamabad had a “critical role in supporting Afghanistan reconciliation and ending the conflict.”

Taliban vows new war in Pakistan

Relations between Pakistan and the U.S. deteriorated dramatically over the May 2 American special forces raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near Islamabad and U.S. accusations over the Sept. 13 U.S. embassy siege in Kabul. The then top U.S. military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, called the militant Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and accused its spies of being involved in the embassy siege. Clinton was expected Oct. 21 to arrive for security talks in Tajikistan, followed by a weekend stop in neighboring Uzbekistan, local officials said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan-based Taliban leader Maulvi Fazlullah, a leading figure in the insurgency, has vowed to return to Pakistan to wage war as the country came under renewed American pressure to tackle militancy. “We sacrificed our lives, left our homes and villages for the sake of Shariah and will do whatever we can to get Shariah implemented in the Malakand region and the rest of Pakistan,” Sirajuddin Ahmad, a close adviser, told Reuters, describing Fazlullah’s position.

Fazlullah was the Pakistani Taliban leader in Swat Valley, about 160 kilometers northwest of Islamabad, before a 2009 army offensive forced him to flee. The Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from but aligned to the Afghan Taliban fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan, has declared war on the Pakistani state for providing support to the U.S.-led war on militants in the region. Pakistan recently complained that Afghan and U.S.-led forces had failed to hunt down Fazlullah, who has been blamed for a spate of cross-border raids.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

Friday, October 21, 2011
ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR