WASHINGTON: Pakistan is urging the United States to provide an “anvil to its hammer” to crush the militants while Washington wants the Haqqani network also on the anvil.
Neither side is mincing words in expressing its concerns about the lack of cooperation from the other.
Talking to US journalists in Washington, a senior Pakistani official complained that the Americans and their Afghan allies were not intercepting the terrorists who fled to Afghanistan to escape Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
But a US State Department official told reporters at a Thursday afternoon briefing that Washington remained focused on the Haqqani Network’s ability to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry told reporters that the North Waziristan operation was “unacceptable” to Kabul because it was only targeting the Pakistani Taliban and not the Haqqani Network.
Pakistan has sent its top foreign ministry official, Tariq Fatemi, to the United States to remove these differences and he is spending an entire week in Washington, meeting senior officials and lawmakers.
Pakistan aired its disappointment with the lack of cooperation from the other side of the Afghan border when a senior Pakistani official briefed the US media on Mr Fatemi’s visit.
The official, who asked not to be identified, complained that US-led international forces and their Afghan allies had failed to intercept the militants who fled to Afghanistan to escape the ongoing operation.
“There should be a hammer and anvil but the Pakistani hammer saw no evidence of the anvil on the other side,” the official said, urging Americans to “take out the militants. Eliminate them.”
But at the Thursday afternoon briefing, a US State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, made it clear that the United States was still worried about the Haqqani Network, which it said was based in North Waziristan.
The US media often quote senior American officials as saying that Pakistan allowed militants of the Haqqani Network to escape by publicising the North Waziristan operation.
“We’ve long been very focused on the Haqqani Network, on their intent to cause instability in Afghanistan, to attack and kill US citizens, which we’ve seen, and military service members particularly,” said Ms Harf. “And it’s been one of our top priorities to bring to bear sort of all of the elements of our power to help fight this threat, to degrade its capability to carry out attacks, to prevent it from raising money, and to prevent it from moving people around. So this remains one of our top priorities,” she added.
The United States, she said, knew it’s a challenge was working to help “particularly in Afghanistan fight this threat”.
The Pakistani official, who briefed the US media, however, said that US and Afghan forces must “not permit these people to disappear”.
The Washington Post, which reported the briefing, pointed out that US forces had already left their posts across North Waziristan and were not in a position to intercept the fleeing militants.
The US media also questioned Pakistan’s wisdom in launching a military offensive when the Americans were leaving Afghanistan instead of doing so earlier when the Americans had more than 100,000 troops there and could have provided the “anvil” the Pakistanis were seeking.
At the briefing, the Pakistani official rejected the suggestion that the Haqqani network will be immune to the ongoing offensive.
“How can you carry out a military operation that is costing the lives of hundreds of soldiers and officers, and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars, and for us to let any one particular group… escape?” he said. “Everyone has to be taken out.”
“If there are any militants that are found fleeing into Afghanistan, we would love to see them taken out by Isaf and Afghan forces,” said the official.
He also urged the United States to increase “intelligence sharing” with Pakistan to aid in counterterrorism operations but opposed the drone strikes that resumed again in June, following a six-month hiatus.
“Drone strikes should take place on the other side” of the border, he said.
“We want to make it very clear. We are never informed as to when they are taking place, where they are taking place, and who is the target for the simple reason that we have made it clear both privately as well as publicly our opposition.”
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2014