Pentagon: Haqqani Network Likely Behind Afghan Attacks

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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The Pentagon says the Pakistani-based militant Haqqani network was likely behind the coordinated attacks across Afghanistan that claimed the lives of four civilians, 11 Afghan security personnel and 36 insurgents.

Fighting in the Afghan capital and three eastern provinces began Sunday afternoon and ended nearly 18 hours later early Monday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the multiple assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO military bases. But both Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and the Pentagon blamed the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which is said to operate out of sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the attacks represented an “intelligence failure for us, and especially for NATO,” and demanded a full investigation.

But NATO and U.S. leaders described the response by Afghan forces as a “sign of progress,” saying the attacks would not affect the plan to gradually withdraw foreign troops from the country and transfer security control to local forces.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard cited that progress on Tuesday when she announced that her country's troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan one year earlier than planned. Mrs. Gillard said – thanks to the success of the Afghan forces – most of her country's 1,550 troops there would return home by the end of 2013.

Australia had previously planned to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country. NATO and Afghan officials continue to work on a long-term strategic agreement defining the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan following that date.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the Afghan attacks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in a telephone call Monday. The State Department said Clinton underscored the “shared responsibility for robust action” by the United States, NATO, Afghanistan and Pakistan to confront militants.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks in the strongest possible terms. He noted the Afghan forces' efforts in responding to the attack and called on all parties to do everything possible to protect civilians.