WASHINGTON, Aug 31: Commander of the US Central Command Gen James Mattis met Pakistan’s ambassador on Thursday evening, causing wild speculation about a possible military operation against militants in North Waziristan.
A media report from Islamabad also claimed that Pakistan might launch the operation sometime next week.
But diplomatic sources in Washington told Dawn that Pakistanis were not ready to launch yet another operation as they were “busy clearing Bajaur”.
The report from Islamabad, however, claimed that the Bajaur operation “will be expanded to neighbouring North Waziristan”.
But a Washington Post report indicated that it’s not yet time for a major operation against the Haqqanis as the Americans were busy considering various options for dealing with the group.
Gen Mattis visited the Pakistan Embassy on Thursday -- two days after the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, postponed a visit to Islamabad for talks with the Pakistani military chief. Neither side has so far explained why the visit was postponed.
A statement issued by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington said that Gen Mattis and Ambassador Sherry Rehman discussed “matters of mutual interest, including enhancing cooperation for better coordination between Pakistan and the United States”.
The ambassador emphasized on “building a relationship of trust and mutual respect” while Gen Mattis acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution in the fight against terrorism and “assured continued cooperation to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan”, the statement said.
The embassy did not explain what caused the general to visit the embassy days after another US general had postponed his visit to Pakistan. The embassy also refused to disclose if the two sides discussed the possibility of launching a major operation in North Waziristan.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Friday that just days before a congressional deadline, the Obama administration was deeply divided over whether to designate the Haqqani network as a terrorist group.
“Some US officials are worried that doing so could complicate efforts to restart peace talks with the Taliban and undermine already fraught relations with Pakistan,” the report said.
Early this month, Congress gave Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 30 days to determine whether the Haqqani group met the criteria for designation as a foreign organisation.
If she does not, Secretary Clinton must explain her rationale in a report due to Congress on Sept 9. The designation would force the administration to take action against the group. While the US military strongly advocated such an action, the White House and some in the State Department were against it, the Post reported.
The newspaper noted that the US military had also asked Pakistan to prove its counter-terrorism commitment by attacking Haqqani sanctuaries in North Waziristan. The CIA has escalated drone attacks on Haqqani targets, including a strike last week that administration officials said killed the son of the network’s founder and its third-ranking official, the report added.