US gives ultimatum to Pak: Hit Haqqanis or we will do it ourselves

Washington, Sept 21(ANI): The United States has sharply warned Pakistan that it must cut ties with the Haqqani network based in its tribal region along the Afghan border and help eliminate the militant group's leaders, according to officials from both nations.

In what amounts to an ultimatum, Obama administration officials have indicated that the US will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply, The Washington Post reports.

The message has been delivered to Pakistan in high-level meetings and public statements over the past several days, the report said.

Amidst growing pressure on Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief General Ahmed Shuja Pasha visited Washington quietly on Tuesday for a one-day visit to meet with his Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counterpart General David Petraeus.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who met with Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in Madrid on Friday, said that the "proxy connection" between Pakistani intelligence and the Haqqani network was the focus of those discussions.

In the wake of last week's Kabul attack, Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that "we are going to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces" in Afghanistan from attacks by the Haqqani network, which has had a long relationship with Pakistan's intelligence service.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is among a minority of administration officials still willing to express public sympathy for Pakistan's weak civilian leaders as they face a growing threat from domestic terrorism and the politically powerful military, the report said.

But during the meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in New York on Sunday, she warned that Islamabad is fast losing friends in Washington, the report added, attributing to one official deeply familiar with the session.

Clinton left the meeting with Pakistan's assurance that "they recognize that these people are threats to Pakistan as well, and that no one should think that their relationship with the Haqqanis was more important than their relationship with the United States," a senior administration official was quoted as saying.

However, another administration official emphasised the severity of the US officials' warning, saying: "We are expressing the firm conviction that things have to change ... in Miranshah and in Islamabad, as well."

Miranshah is the main population centre in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, where the Haqqani leadership is based, the report said.

"It's a reality that they're not living in tents in the open," the official was quoted as saying.

But with Pakistani cooperation, "we know that there are ways to get at extremist leaders anywhere," the official added, citing the past capture of senior al-Qaeda leaders during joint intelligence operations in the larger cities of Karachi and Quetta. (ANI)