US links halt in drone strikes to Pak Army taking on Haqqanis

Washington has been pressing Islamabad to launch a major operation against terror groups like al Qaeda, Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban.

Islamabad: The US has linked halting its
deadly drone campaign in Pakistan`s tribal belt to the
military launching a full-scale operation against the powerful
Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan, a media report
said on Friday.

But, Pakistan`s powerful Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez
Kayani refused to give any clear-cut assurance on carrying out
operations in the area, The Express Tribune reported quoting
unnamed officials.

The matter figured prominently during a key meeting
between US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen
and Kayani in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, the paper said.

The US offer to taper drone strikes comes as the top
US military commander publicly expressed concern over links
between Pakistani military intelligence and Haqqani network
which is attacking US forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Washington for over a year has been pressing Islamabad
to launch a major operation in North Waziristan where US
intelligence estimates that fighters from all major terror
groups like al Qaeda, Haqqani network, Afghan Taliban and
others have massed after Pak Army operations in South
Waziristhan and other tribal belts of FATA.

Mullen said the CIA-operated Predator strikes would
continue their campaign until Pakistan eliminates the Haqqani
network from its tribal region.

However, Kayani refused to give "any assurance or
timeline" to Mullen on carrying out an all-out assault in
North Waziristan, officials privy to the discussions said.

"Our position is absolutely clear that the operation
in North Waziristan will be launched only if it is in the
national interest," a security official, who requested not to
be identified, told the daily.

Pakistan`s security establishment has for long been
accused of having links with the Afghan Taliban, particularly
the Haqqani network.

US officials say Pakistan`s reluctance to go after the
deadliest Afghan militant group is the main reason the
American administration has had to rely on unmanned drones to
take out "high value" targets.

During interactions with the media in Islamabad on
Wednesday, Mullen had warned that the military-run ISI`s
continued links with the Haqqani militant network are at the
core of US`s strained and problematic relations with Pakistan.

Kayani dismissed such perceptions, saying the military
is committed to defeating extremists.

He also backed the Pakistan government`s opposition to
drone strikes, saying "they not only undermine our national
effort against terrorism but turn public support against our

The army chief also rejected the "negative propaganda
of Pakistan not doing enough" and the US administration`s
complaint about the Pakistan Army`s "lack of clarity on the
way forward".

Pakistan-US relations have been under strain due to a
series of incidents, including the killing of two Pakistanis
by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January and drone attacks,
one of which killed some 40 tribesmen, including members of a

Despite efforts by the two countries to defuse the
tension, the strains have lingered.

Both Mullen and US Central Command chief Gen James
Mattis visited Pakistan this month, while ISI chief Lt Gen
Ahmed Shuja Pasha travelled to the US last week to meet CIA
chief Leon Panetta.