`Haqqani network, a friction point in US-Pak ties`

The United States expressed "frustration" with Pakistan on its unwillingness to take head on the Haqqani network.

Updated: Jun 08, 2012, 10:25 AM IST

Washington: The United States on Thursday expressed "frustration" with Pakistan on its unwillingness to take head on the Haqqani network, a issue which a top Pentagon commander acknowledged is one of the points of friction with Islamabad.

"As far as that has strained our relationship with Pakistan, there are friction points in our relationship with Pakistan and those activities are one of those friction points," Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told reporters, referring to the reluctance of Pakistan to take action against the dreaded Haqqani network.

"We have some interests on which we cooperate almost without question, and then there are other issues where we just have not been able to find common ground. The presence of Afghan Taliban in the FATA is one of those areas. And it`s our view that the Haqqani Network is as big a threat to Pakistan as it is to Afghanistan and to us, but we haven`t been able to find common ground on that point. So that`s been very frustrating," Dempsey said.

"We are at war with al Qaeda. We will pursue them wherever we find them because they are a global network which has the intent of threatening our homeland. So we are at war with al Qaeda and al Qaeda is in the FATA," he said.

"Pakistan, with us, is at war in the FATA with other groups. Make no mistake about it: Although we are extraordinarily dissatisfied with the effect that Pakistan has had on the Haqqanis, we are also mindful that they are conducting military operations at great loss, by the way, elsewhere in North Waziristan," he said.

"So Pakistan is at war in the FATA, and with us in some cases; not with any US military personnel, with us in the sense that they are trying to diminish the effect of those insurgencies on that side of the border," Dempsey said.

Responding to a question on "US losing patience with Pakistan", Dempsey explained this is because the US considers that a strong action by Pakistan against the Haqqani network is essential for the United States to be successful in meeting its 2014 timeline of withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.

"So the urgency I suppose is increasing for two reasons. One is, we`ve got to get RC-East (in Afghanistan) and the Haqqani influence reduced in order to meet our timelines for the transition that we`re moving toward, and at the end of 2014. So that`s number one," he said.

"Number two, Haqqanis have become more active. You know, the Haqqani Network is directly attributed to the attack last month in Kabul, and Haqqani is attributed to the recent attack on Forward Operating Base Salerno. So with that kind of hard intelligence to suggest that the Haqqani Network is responsible, they are rising in importance, in our view. And that`s, I think, the best way to think about why is this becoming more prominent now," Dempsey said.

"I think we`re frustrated. We`ve said that before. We want to see action against the Haqqanis," echoed State Department spokesman Mark Toner at his daily news conference.

"Secretary (of Defence, Leon) Panetta, Secretary (of State, Hillary) Clinton and others have stated before about our desire to work with Pakistan to squeeze the Haqqani network and that we need to make a joint effort to confront them and confront extremism writ large in Pakistan," he said.

"It is an important and complicated relationship, but one -- and I believe Secretary Panetta made this point -- it`s one that we need to work to improve and that, despite the challenges that we face with Pakistan, we must continue to engage with them in order to make the region a safer place. Let us be very clear where we`ve been on the Haqqani network. We want to see steps taken to squeeze them," he said.