Pakistan’s Army Head Blasts Mullen Comments as ‘Baseless’

Posted September 23rd, 2011 at 7:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistan's army chief is dismissing U.S. accusations that its military spy agency supports al-Qaida-linked militants who attack targets in Afghanistan as “not based on facts.”

U.S. officials have long maintained Haqqani militants attack targets in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region. Thursday, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.

He said the ISI supported the Haqqanis' assault last week on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul, as well as the September 10 car bombing of a NATO base in central Afghanistan.

In a statement Friday, Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani blasted Mullen's comments as a “blame game” and said he categorically denied accusations Pakistan is supporting the Haqqanis or conducting a proxy war in Afghanistan.

He said Mullen's statements were “especially disturbing” considering the two men had what he called a “rather constructive” meeting this month in Spain.

Kayani also said singling Pakistan out is “neither fair nor productive,” implying Pakistan's contacts with the Haqqanis are part of ongoing reconciliation efforts.

Earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it is critical Pakistan “break any links” it has with the Haqqani network. He also urged Islamabad to take immediate action against the militant group to ensure it is no longer a threat to the American or Pakistani people.

Pakistan has repeatedly rejected any U.S. accusations that it helps militants, including the most recent and pointed allegations. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hit back at Mullen's remarks late Thursday, warning that the United States risks losing an ally if it continues to make such statements.

Khar told a private Pakistani news channel (GEO TV) late Thursday (in New York) the United States cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani government or its people. The Pakistani foreign minister said that if the United States chooses to push Pakistan away, it will do so at its own cost.

In Karachi, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Friday the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is fraught with difficulty, saying “they can not live with us [and] they can not live without us.”

Also Friday, intelligence officials in Pakistan said a suspected U.S. drone strike killed at least three militants in a house in North Waziristan tribal region, which the Haqqanis control.