By Jason Straziuso
Sunday, May 7, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 6 -- A top U.S. counterterrorism official said Saturday that parts of Pakistan were a "safe haven" for militants and that Osama bin Laden was more likely to be hiding there than in Afghanistan.
Henry Crumpton, the U.S. ambassador in charge of counterterrorism, lauded Pakistan for arresting "hundreds and hundreds" of al-Qaeda figures but said it needed to do more.
"Has Pakistan done enough? I think the answer is no. I have conveyed that to them; other U.S. officials have conveyed that to them," he told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after talks with Afghan officials.
The chief spokesman for Pakistan's army, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, dismissed Crumpton's assertion that Islamabad was not doing enough.
"It is totally absurd," he said. "No one has conveyed this thing to Pakistan, and if someone claims so, it is absurd."
Crumpton's remarks came a day after 10 U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed during combat operations aimed at flushing out militants from remote mountains in eastern Afghanistan.
The crash of the CH-47 Chinook Friday afternoon was the deadliest for U.S. forces here in a year and comes at a time of increasing militant attacks, though U.S. officials ruled out hostile fire as a cause.
"There is no indication that the helicopter came down due to some enemy action," said Lt. Tamara D. Lawrence, a coalition spokeswoman.
About 2,500 Afghan and U.S. soldiers are conducting a joint military campaign, dubbed Operation Mountain Lion, in Konar province near the border with Pakistan. It is one of the biggest offensives since the ouster of the hard-line Taliban militia by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 for hosting al-Qaeda.
The transport helicopter was conducting "operations on a mountaintop landing zone" when it crashed near Asadabad in Konar, about 150 miles east of the capital, Kabul, the military said.
The terrain surrounding Asadabad -- where the U.S. military has a large base -- is extremely rugged. The police chief of Konar province, Gen. Abdul Ghafar, said the helicopter crashed about 10 miles northwest of the base at a remote spot a day's walk from any passable road.
Recovery operations did not begin until daybreak Saturday. The military did not say what unit the U.S. troops were from, only specifying they were soldiers.