Pakistan, US mull joint campaign against Haqqanis
05 August, 2012
LAHORE: The United States (US) and Pakistani officials are considering joint counterterrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, say officials familiar with the proposals, in what would mark an upturn in cooperation after more than a year of rancorous relations, the WSJ reported.
The proposed campaigns would target the Haqqani network, which has mounted several attacks on US soldiers, as well as the Taliban who have launched attacks on Pakistan, the officials said.
The campaigns would be intended to help stamp out major security threats facing each country, targeting what the US says are sanctuaries for the Haqqani network in Pakistan, and what Pakistan says are sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan.
The plans are considered, at best, promising. US officials have long pressed Pakistani counterparts to target the Haqqani group, without success. Washington says the terrorist network acts like a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani security forces, a charge Pakistan denies.
"It's a good beginning," said Vali Nasr, a former top US State Department official who is dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
He pointed out that in previous joint campaigns, Pakistan has asked to be involved in all aspects of intelligence gathering. But the US side has looked sceptically at Pakistani requests to share information about coming raids. "It's always been a sticking point," Nasr said.
The potential US-Pakistani plans were discussed in meetings in Washington this week involving Pakistan's new intelligence chief and top officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, State Department and Pentagon, as well as top lawmakers, said the officials familiar with the talks.
Also discussed was Pakistan's demand for a halt to CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. No agreement was reached on any changes to the programmes, officials said.
The US and Pakistani officials both described this week's meetings as productive and indicative of a higher level of trust than in previous meetings.
Until now, counterterrorism negotiations between the sides have been largely on hold after US forces killed 24 Pakistani troops near Afghanistan's border in November amid miscommunications between the sides. As tensions rose over the US's refusal to apologise for the incident, the new Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lt Gen Zahirul Islam, deferred a June invitation from the CIA to visit Washington.
Counterterrorism relations between the countries had already become tense after earlier incidents last year in which a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis and the US mounted the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
A US decision in July to say it was sorry for the Pakistani soldiers' deaths jump-started talks over the highly contentious CIA drone programme and US demands that Pakistan target the Haqqani network. "Pakistan's democratic government is committed to moving forward with the US in many shared goals," said Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, saying her government is working to reshape its relationships in the region. "Better ties with the US can help us in this broader goal of creating equities for peace instead of volatility in a region that is going through many security transitions."
On Wednesday, she hosted a dinner at her residence for Lt Gen Islam, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell and top lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. They discussed "mutual challenges", according to one participant.
On Thursday, CIA Director David Petraeus hosted a dinner for Gen Islam and Sherry.
"Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to counter the terrorist presence in the region that threatens both US and Pakistani national security," a senior US official said of the meeting.
During this week's meetings, Pakistani officials asked the US to target about a half-dozen Pakistani Taliban operatives, based in the Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the meetings.