But in the past several months, Pakistan has turned the tables, adopting a mirror-image argument in its own defense.
According to this increasingly assertive account, Pakistani Taliban fighters flushed out by Pakistani military offensives have now settled into a security vacuum created by NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan whose attention is focused elsewhere. That territory, Pakistan contends, is the new regional hub for Islamist militants of all stripes, one that the U.S.-led coalition must better control to prevent attacks on American forces as well as strikes inside Pakistan.
Some analysts here say Pakistan is now pushing this case as an excuse for not pursuing the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban faction that U.S. officials assert operates unmolested from Pakistan. Others say the opposite: that the Americans are boosting pressure on Pakistan by allowing the attacks inside Pakistan.
Either way, the dueling narratives have become the latest illustration of the disconnect between Washington and Islamabad, and they help explain why the ever-prickly security partnership has plummeted to such lows that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Islamabad on Thursday night with an extraordinarily high-level American delegation that included CIA director David Petraeus.
The disconnect, which also involves differences over negotiations and the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan, was on center stage during a stopover by Clinton in Kabul, where she sternly warned Pakistan that it would face dire consequences if it failed to eliminate militant sanctuaries on its soil. In Pakistan, talk show pundits encouraged Pakistani officials to take an equally hard line with the Americans by insisting they show appreciation for the nation’s help, not condemnation.
In an interview, a Pakistani intelligence official said Pakistani leaders expected to be confronted with evidence of state support for the Haqqanis and threats of aid cuts. But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “many in our security establishment” had decided that the real U.S. target is Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and that Pakistan will offer little help unless the United States limits the role of India, Pakistan’s prime rival, in Afghanistan.
“Any breakthrough is unlikely in the talks,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pakistan had already escalated its complaints this week, faulting NATO forces for failing to hunt down an infamous militant cleric whom Pakistani troops expelled from its Swat Valley in 2009. Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told Reuters that Maulvi Fazlullah is now in Afghanistan. From there, Abbas said, Fazlullah has directed a series of recent cross-border strikes that have killed more than 100 Pakistani security forces. The U.S.-led coalition has ignored Pakistan’s pleas for action, he said.