Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee Thursday that the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, had provided support for several assaults on U.S. targets carried out by the network, an Afghan guerilla group based in Pakistan’s border region. He referred to the militant organization as a “veritable arm” of the ISI.
Kayani denied what he called “accusations of proxy war and ISI support to Haqqanis,” and he seemed to suggest that the United States — which is trying to encourage reconciliation talks to end the U.S.-led Afghan war — has its own lines of communication with the militant group.
“Admiral Mullen knows fully well which . . . countries are in contact with the Haqqanis,” Kayani’s statement said. “Singling out Pakistan is neither fair nor productive.”
U.S. officials have long said privately that Pakistani intelligence aids the Haqqani network. But Mullen’s comments were the most serious and specific yet, and they followed recent warnings by other U.S. officials that the United States would resort to unilateral action against the Haqqanis if Pakistan did not take them on. Kayani’s statement gave no indication that the Pakistani army, which has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid over the past decade, plans to do so.
The army chief’s response came after similarly sharp dismissals from Pakistani government officials, who have ceded most control over security issues and the U.S. relationship to the military. Speaking to a Pakistani television network, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that the United States could ill afford to jeopardize its relationship with Pakistan and that doing so “will be at their own cost.”
“Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it is not acceptable,” Khar said.
A senior State Department official said Friday that the country had a “vital interest” in continuing to work with Pakistan to fight terrorism. “These are problems that threaten both of us. We have had some counterterrorism successes. We need to continue to fight this battle together, and we will,” said the official, who asked not to be identified to discuss sensitive issues.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told reporters in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, that the United States was ignoring the “feelings” of Pakistanis, who want “to defend their motherland and its sovereignty.” The United States, he said, “cannot live with us and cannot live without us.”