WASHINGTON: The Pakistanis know that Mullah Omar is in Pakistan and are ignoring US requests to find him, two senior US military commanders told Congress on Tuesday.The two commanders, who will now oversee all US military operations in the Pak-Afghan region, also said that Pakistan was protecting the Haqqani network of militants and had not acted when asked to destroy Taliban weapon factories in Fata.
“We believe he is,” said Admiral William McRaven when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked him if Mullah Omar was hiding inside Pakistan.
Lt-Gen John Allen said Pakistan lacked the desire and the capability to act against the militants.
Their responses enabled senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to demand retaliatory actions against Pakistan if it continued to protect the militants.
“Do we believe Mullah Omar is there with the knowledge of the ISI and the upper echelons of the army?” asked Senator Graham.
“Sir, I believe the Pakistanis know he is in Pakistan,” said Admiral McRaven, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the US Special Operations Command. Admiral McRaven also was in charge of the May 2 raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“If they tried for about a week, do you think they could find him?” asked the senator. “I don't know whether they could or not, because I don't know exactly where Mullah Omar is,” Admiral McRaven replied.
“Have we asked them to find him?” Senator Graham asked. “I believe we have,” Admiral McRaven replied.
Senator Carl Levin, who heads the Armed Services Committee, “and I are both asking Pakistan to help us find Mullah Omar,” said Senator Graham.
The senator then asked Lt-Gen Allen, the future head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, if the Americans were 'certain' that explosive devices used against their soldiers were coming from Pakistan.
“Yes, we are,” said the general.
“Have we given that information to the Pakistanis?” the senator asked. “That's correct, sir,” said the general.
“And have they responded effectively?” the senator asked. “They have not,” the general said.
“Well, I'm with Chairman Levin on this. This has got to stop,” said Senator Graham while concluding his questions.
But this did not end what looked like Pakistan's indictment in the US Congress, which began soon after Senator Levin introduced the two nominees to the panel.
“The safe haven in Pakistan continues to provide the Haqqani network the freedom to launch attacks against US and coalition troops in Afghanistan,” remarked Senator Levin.
“Now you both have talked to Pakistani military leaders. Why do they refuse to take on the Haqqani network? And in your judgment is that going to change?” he asked.
“It's a function probably of capacity. But it might also be a function of their hedging, whether they have determined that the United States is going to remain in Afghanistan, whether our strategy will be successful or not,” Gen Allen said.
“At some point, as we have emphasised to the Pakistanis, we've got to bring pressure to bear on this insurgent safe haven. And in the end what we would hope is that they would listen to our desires for them to do that.”
“Is Pakistan's attitude likely to change in the near term?” Senator Levin asked Admiral McRaven.
“I don't think it is likely to change,” Admiral McRaven said. “It is both a capacity issue for the Pakistanis and I think potentially a willingness issue, recognising that the situation in Fata is difficult for them to deal with,” the admiral said.
“Well, something's got to give, something's got to change, 'cause it just can't continue this way',” Senator Levin remarked.
At another point, Gen Allen assured the lawmakers there was also “a bright spot in the many different facets” to this relationship.
“And that bright spot is the tripartite planning committee where on a regular basis US, Afghan and Pakistani military officers sit down and go through the process of planning for how they will conduct cross-border operations.”