US reaching 'limits of patience' with Pakistan

2012-06-07 13:02
Leon Panetta. (Jim Watson, AP)

Leon Panetta. (Jim Watson, AP)

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Kabul - Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan for tolerating safe havens that allow insurgents to attack US troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Panetta made the strong remarks after talks with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on the latest leg of an Asian tour that has taken him to Pakistan's arch-rival India, but not Islamabad in a sign of dire US-Pakistan relations.

He singled out the Haqqani network, a Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked faction that has bases in Pakistan's lawless tribal district of North Waziristan and which has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

"It's an increasing concern that Haqqani safe havens still exist on the other side of the border. Pakistan has to take action from allowing terrorists in their country to attack our forces on the other side of the border," he said.

"We are reaching the limits of our patience here," he added.

Stormy relationship

US officials most recently blamed the Haqqani network for a brazen 18-hour assault on Kabul in April - the biggest to hit the Afghan capital in a decade - which further rocked the stormy relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

Ties between the two allies in the war on terror have been in free fall since Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in a covert raid on his Pakistani compound in May 2011 that was conducted without Islamabad's prior knowledge.

In a damning indictment of the distrust between both countries, Panetta, then CIA director, said at the time that Washington ruled out telling Islamabad about the planned raid as they feared Pakistani spies might tip off the al-Qaeda chief.

The United States is most recently at loggerheads with Pakistan over Islamabad's six-month blockade on Nato supplies crossing overland into Afghanistan, imposed after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

Pakistan has been incensed by America's refusal to apologise formally for the air strikes and US officials have refused to pay the thousands of dollars Pakistan has reportedly demanded per container as a condition to reopening the border.

Exacerbated tensions

The sentencing to 33 years in jail on May 23 of the Pakistani doctor recruited by the CIA to help identify bin Laden by running a fake vaccination campaign has further exacerbated tensions with Washington.

Panetta said that in talks with Pakistan, the United States had made "very clear, time and time again" the need to crackdown on Haqqani militants.

Pakistan has resisted US pressure to launch a major offensive against the network in North Waziristan, arguing that it is too overstretched in the fight against local Taliban to take on an enemy that poses no threat to Pakistan.

Independent analysts have suggested that Pakistan is not capable of defeating the Haqqanis, a well organised and disciplined force that can command thousands of fighters.

In India, Panetta described the alliance with New Delhi as a "lynchpin" in US military strategy in Asia and urged India to play a more active role in Afghanistan, fuelling long-held Pakistani concerns about being encircled by its arch rival.
Read more on:    leon panetta  |  pakistan  |  us  |  afghanistan

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