The admiral, the terror network and a crisis in US-Pakistan relations

 

Delhi

Pakistan's political and military leadership were last night trying to hammer out a response to the most fierce public criticism Islamabad has faced from Washington since the nations forged an alliance in the white heat of the 9/11 attacks.

America has claimed that the Haqqani insurgent network operates as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. But Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told politicians and generals, including the army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani: "We reject these allegations. God willing," he added, "we can face these challenges with unity. We are committed to defend our independence and sovereignty."

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, sparked the dispute last week when he made the claims about the ISI's connections to the Haqqani network in testimony to the Senate. Elaborating in an interview with npr, formerly National Public Radio, he said: "The ISI specifically has enough support for the Haqqanis in terms of financial support, logistic support – and actually, sort of free passage in the safe havens ," he said. "Those links are part of what enable the Haqqanis to carry out their mission."

The White House has played down Mullen's words, which were delivered after an attack by militants on the US embassy in Kabul blamed on the Haqqanis, a father and son insurgent group that has for many years operated in Afghanistan while taking refuge in Pakistan's tribal areas. Anonymous officials said that he had "overstated" the ISI's relationship with it, while White House press secretary Jay Carney said it was "not language I would use".

Western officials disagree about the degree of influence the ISI has over the Haqqanis, but do not dispute a link. In Pakistan, diplomats describe the relationship as murkier than Admiral Mullen suggested. But there are fears of a possible, even imminent, use of military force to target them in North Waziristan. Anxious about such action, Pakistan's media has hardened its already hostile attitude to Washington.

Meanwhile, just four months after the powerful Pakistan army endured unprecedented criticism for its failure to locate Osama bin Laden, prevent the US raid that killed him and defend a major naval base against militant attacks, it has been rehabilitated with surprising ease. "The nation is proud of its armed forces," Mr Gilani said, "they have never disappointed us in matters of defence."

In the current dispute, some of the anger usually reserved for Pakistan's neighbour, India, has been directed at Washington. Some television channels have taken to playing war anthems. "O, enemies you have defied this nation," said one, using words from General Ayub Khan's speech at the start of the 1965 war against India. "O, infidels you have defied this nation," it added, showing images of Admiral Mullen and defence secretary Leon Panetta.

The Pakistan army doesn't deny its links with the Haqqanis. "What General Kayani tells the Americans when they ask about the Haqqanis," said a senior military official, "is that no agency in the world will cut off their last contact with them." The arrangement, the military official added, is in place to yield "positive" dividends.

What worries the army are the opaque threats of military action. US defence secretary Leon Panetta warned that the US would "take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces." That, the Pakistani army said, has put General Kayani on the spot. "We have to do something," the military official said.

"We are being pushed against the wall. If we don't react, the public opinion will consume us."

Most observers believe the US's relationship with Pakistan is too important to be allowed to fail. But US officials, now airing allegations in public that were previously made only in private, may have to accept that Pakistan's foreign policy priorities are not necessarily those of Washington.

"Pakistan has long used non-state actors, from Lashkar-e-Taiba to the Taliban. They are not going to [stop that] and we have to live with it," said a former Indian intelligence official, who asked not to be named.

In Washington, much talk has focused on the billions of dollars in aid, mostly used to purchase of military equipment, given to Pakistan in the last decade. George Perkovich, an expert on Pakistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the stand-off was an opportunity for the US to do more to bolster Pakistan's civilian administration.

Professor S Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based social scientist, said of the row: "It's posturing, nothing more than that. Both countries rely on each other. Neither can afford to declare a non-communicative relationship."

But trying to get ahead in this current battle of words and perceptions, Islamabad has been very publicly signaling that it is prepared to lean away from Washington.

Over the past week, there have been a series of high-level exchanges with Beijing and Riyadh. The Saudi army participated in military exercises in Pakistan, and the Chinese deputy prime minister has also visited the country.

"Let's not talk USA here," Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, reproached reporters when he met Meng Jianzhou, the Chinese deputy premier. "I am here with my friend China."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform