x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

US presses Pakistan for action on Haqqani terrorist network

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton meet the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, for three and a half hours in New York and stresses need for Pakistan to take action on the Haqqani network.

NEW YORK // The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, pressed Pakistan to take action against Haqqani militants whom the United States blames for an attack on the US embassy in Kabul, officials said.

Mrs Clinton met the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, for three and a half hours of "very substantial" and "very candid" talks on Sunday that began and ended with counter-terrorism, said Mrs Clinton's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.

A senior State Department official also said the talks began and ended with concerns about the Taliban-allied Haqqani network that Washington suspects receives Pakistani government support.

The attack on the US embassy in Kabul on September 13, which left 15 dead, "changed the nature" of the previously planned gathering, which lasted longer than expected, according to the official.

Ms Khar, in New York for a meeting of the UN General Assembly, made clear to Mrs Clinton that Pakistan "couldn't condemn more" the attack, adding "that this kind of terrorism was a threat to Pakistan" as well, the official said.

"We were specific about the need for Pakistan to take action on the Haqqani network."

The Pakistanis "understand the threat the Haqqanis pose to them," and that "it is time" for them to take action, according to the senior US official.

Cameron Munter, the US ambassador in Islamabad, bluntly put forward evidence on Saturday that linked the Pakistani government to the Haqqani network of militants, and blamed the group for the Kabul siege.

But the US official said the evidence was not raised in Mrs Clinton's talks with Ms Khar.

The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, has said the United States would retaliate against Pakistan-based insurgents.

Washington has long urged Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network and suspected the group enjoys support within Pakistan's intelligence services.

But the public comments are a mark of strained ties between the two allies, with relations fractious since the US raid in Pakistan that killed the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May, a raid that took place without Washington first informing Islamabad.

The Haqqani network is thought to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, where Nato plans a gradual withdrawal of troops after a gruelling 10-year war.

Militants frequently cross the porous Afghan-Pakistani border and the Haqqanis, who are closely allied with the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and also linked to Al Qaeda, only launch attacks in Afghanistan.