The Washington Post

White House massages Adm. Mullen’s Pakistan allegations

Does the Obama Administration really think that the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group that has attacked U.S. positions, is “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service, as Adm. Mike Mullen alleged last week?

“That’s not language I would use,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday when comments by Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, achieved a rare feat in briefly elbowing aside Obama’s jobs proposal as topic A at the White House’s daily briefing.

Reporters pressed Carney on Mullen’s assertion to Congress that the Pakistani government was aiding the insurgent group, which has been blamed for some of the most audacious attacks in the Afghanistan war, including the 20-hour siege on the U.S. Embassy compound this month.

Unnamed administration officials have pushed back on Mullen, saying Mullen overstated the case.

There are links “between the Pakistani government and the Haqqani network,” Carney said. “The nature of those can be assessed and is complicated, but there is no question that they have safe havens in Pakistan. . . and that Pakistan has not taken action to eliminate those.”

Mullen’s statements triggered immediate blowback in Pakistan, where the United States has struggled to balance its relationship with a key player in the future of Afghanistan and the region.

U.S. officials have pursued a partnership with the Pakistani government in its effort to root out the insurgent fighters operating in lawless tribal regions of Pakistan. But some officials, such as Mullen, appear to be growing increasingly frustrated with what they view as the Pakistanis’ duplicitous motivations in the war on terror.

Carney declined to either endorse or contradict Mullen’s specific remarks, at one point calling reporters’ questions “a matter of semantics.”

“What Admiral Mullen said was consistent with our position,” Carney said. “What we have said and what is our policy is that there are links -- I think that is irrefutable. The fact that Pakistan has not taken action against those safe havens allows the Haqqani network more freedom to operate, and that results in increasing their capacity to take action against Americans in Afghanistan. And that’s a matter of great concern, and we bring those issues to the Pakistanis and express our concern about them.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.


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