Aziz rejects US claims about Haqqani network

ISLAMABAD: Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz rejected on Monday US claims that Pakistan had not adequately acted against the Haqqani network and said the terrorist group had been significantly damaged in the military operation in North Waziristan.

`The infrastructure of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which included IED (Improvised Explosive Device) factories and a number of other capacities, including communication, has been disrupted, so what is left here may be very limited compared to the capacity they still have in Afghanistan,` Mr Aziz said at a media briefing along with visiting German Foreign Minister Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier after their talks at the Foreign Minis try.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had in her meetings with Pakistani leaders on Sunday conveyed US concerns about the alleged terrorist and militant attacks, particularly those linked to the Haqqani network, emanating from Pakistani soil. She had further conveyed US demands regarding the steps that Washington wanted Pakistan to take against the group.

Contrary to American and Afghan claims about the Haqqani network planning and launching attacks from Pakistani soil, Mr Aziz said that the group was operating from within Afghanistan and the problem needed to be dealt with there.

`The assumption on the other side is that probably they (Haqqani network) still have ability to control or direct things from here, but our assessment is that their capacity in Afghanistan is much, much bigger probably 80-90 per cent compared to what is here and what is here is also being cleaned out as a part of our operations,` the adviser said.

`The question of the Haqqani network is a more limited issue and it depends on the assessment of the ground situation.

Mr Aziz said that it should be analysed how many of the Haqqani network attacks had actually originated from Pakistan. This, he noted, was a question of verifying the ground situation.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier too did not appear convinced with the American stance on the Haqqani network issue.

`These were still early days for assessing consequences of the North Waziristan Operation for the Haqqani network,` he said.

Praising the Zarb-i-Azb operation, the visiting foreign minister said Pakistani security forces had made huge sacrifices.

He stressed on international cooperation for dealing with the threat of terrorism.

`The German Foreign Minister paid tremendous respect and appreciation for the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against extremism and terrorism,` the Prime Minister`s Office said in a statement on Mr Steinmeir`s meeting with PM Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Steinmeier also called on Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif for discussion on regional security situation.

During his meetings, the German foreign minister additionally discussed ways to increase bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

Our correspondent in Washington adds: US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who visited Islamabad during the weekend, has told Pakistani leaders that recent terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan were `absolutely unacceptable`, a senior US official told Dawn on Monday.

The official also blamed the Haqqani network for these attacks that killed more than 50 people in Kabul earlier this month.

`We understand that a series of recent deadly attacks in Kabul were perpetrated by the Haqqani Network,` said the official while underlining the Afghan government`s `concerns and anguish` over this issue.

`We share the concerns.

We`ve had three Americans killed in attacks in Kabul in recent weeks, and this is absolutely unacceptable, the official said.

Washington`s decision to send its top security official to Islamabad confirms US media reports that the Obama administration believes the Haqqani network still has a base in Pakistan`s tribal area and uses this base to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects this charge as `unfounded`, adding that Pakistani forces had already destroyed the group`s base in North Waziristan. US media reports, however, quote US intelligence officials as saying that the group has moved its base to another location in Fata.

Published in Dawn