US to Pursue Pakistan-Based Militants

Posted September 14th, 2011 at 9:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that the United States will not allow Pakistan-based insurgents, like those blamed for staging a 20-hour siege in the Afghan capital, to continue attacking American forces.

Panetta said Wednesday it is unacceptable that Haqqani network militants are able to launch deadly attacks in Afghanistan and then flee to safe havens across the border.

He blamed Pakistan for failing to crack down on the militant group that Washington says carried out the assault. The siege ended earlier Wednesday and targeted the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other high-profile targets in Kabul.

Panetta said the U.S. has repeatedly urged Islamabad to “exercise its influence” to prevent such actions. He said he would not disclose how U.S. forces would respond in the future, but made clear Washington would not allow such raids to continue.

While Haqqani fighters allegedly carried out the assault, their Taliban allies claimed responsibility for what is seen as the longest militant siege on the Afghan capital since the start of the war in 2001. The Haqqanis also have ties to al-Qaida and have previously demonstrated an ability to launch sophisticated attacks.

Earlier Wednesday, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said the attack was a military failure but also a propaganda victory for the Taliban. He said the raid frightened Kabul residents and made headlines around the world.

General Allen said 11 Afghan civilians, more than half of them children, were killed, along with five Afghan police officers. More than two dozen people were wounded, including six NATO troops.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker also downplayed the assault, saying the militants were only capable of what he called “harassment,” firing six rocket-propelled grenades at the embassy from a distance of 800 meters. No embassy staff were wounded.

Afghan police officials said they believe the militants used burqas to bypass security checks to get close to the sensitive area housing the diplomatic compounds. They reported finding several of the traditional full-bodied coverings for women inside a vehicle packed with explosives at the scene of the final battle.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and praised the effective response of the Afghan authorities. He said such actions will not stop the security transition in the country, but instead embolden the Afghan people's determination to take responsibility for their own affairs.

The assault came as NATO nations seek to transfer full security control to the Afghan military within the next few years. Afghan security forces already have taken security control of several cities and provinces.