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U.S.-Pakistan tensions rise

Sept. 23, 2011 at 1:16 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Simmering U.S. frustration and anger over Pakistan's alleged collusion with Afghan militants is at a boil with accusations of Islamabad's direct involvement in terror attacks.

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, in testimony Thursday before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Haqqani terrorist network, which attacked the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week and also killed 77 coalition forces in a truck-bomb attack earlier this month, is "a veritable" arm of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack as well as the assault on our embassy," Mullen said.

"We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller -- but effective -- operations."

News reports have stated that the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, also turned up the heat when he revealed that he personally gave Pakistani Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayan intelligence information about a possible terror attack and Kayan said he would "make a phone call" to stop it.

The attack was the truck bombing two days later.

The Haqqani network is an Islamist organization in Pakistan's North Waziristan, which is in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan. It is connected with the Taliban as well as al-Qaida and conducts operations mainly in Afghanistan's Paktia, Paktika, Wardak and Khost provinces as well as in Kabul province.

Its overall leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, fought Soviet forces in the 1980s, during which time he and his followers received support from Pakistan's ISI as well as from the CIA. It's believed to have as many as 15,000 full-time and part-time gunmen and other operatives.

Haqqani's son, Sirajuiddin, is believed to be in day-to-day operational control and is on a "most wanted" terrorist list of coalition forces.

Pakistan has denied the allegations as baseless. Pakistan is cooperating in the war on terrorism, it said, and is needed by the United States and coalition forces. It also warned Washington could "lose an ally" is accusations continued or if its sovereignty were violated.

Increasing attacks on terrorist leaders in Pakistan by U.S. drones is a particularly sore point with Islamabad, which faces its own problems with Islamist militants.

Analysts say that Pakistan, an early supporter of the Taliban when it came to power after Moscow ended its occupation of Afghanistan, is playing a double if not a triple game with terrorism. It wants to appease the United States, which is a major provider of aid, while pacifying its own Islamists; it wants to exert influence on the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai; and it wants to insure a strong influence on Afghanistan when Coalition Forces withdraw and the Taliban returns to power.

The United States for years has complained diplomatically about the ISI involvement with Afghan insurgents. When it mounted the raid in Pakistan in May that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Washington didn't inform Pakistan of the operation or the intelligence gathered leading up to it. It simply didn't trust Islamabad -- given previous information leaks.

In the past "rogue" elements within ISI were often accused of supporting the terror groups. But the ISI is described as a highly disciplined organization that takes its lead from military leadership.

The United States may now be putting the rogue theory to rest but what it can do in practical terms is an iffy proposition.

"They need us," a Pakistani official said. And it's true. About 35 percent of supplies for coalition forces in Afghanistan pass through Pakistani ports and are trucked through the country.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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