On Saturday, Pakistan showed how dismissive it is of U.S. pressure. Only days after Secretary State Clinton’s visit to Pakistan and one day prior to her trip to Afghanistan, the Pakistan-based Haqqani network carried out the deadliest bombing in Afghanistan since the war began. Thirteen NATO personnel were killed by a suicide bomber and there is every reason to believe it will be traced back to Pakistan’s intelligence service.
The attack is a challenge from Pakistan. Haroun Mir, an Afghan analyst, said, “The Pakistanis are sending another message, too: They are not willing to abandon their support of the Taliban.” The Pentagon’s latest report on the war in Afghanistan states that the Pakistani safe havens and the weaknesses of the Afghan government present the most serious problems to the war effort. The fact that Pakistan allowed the Haqqani network to carry out such an operation shows it has no intention of changing its behavior.
Saturday’s attack is particularly brazen given the direct accusations leveled at Pakistan by senior U.S. officials. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, bluntly called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani ISI intelligence service. When asked to clarify, he responded, “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased.” He also accused the ISI of orchestrating a truck bombing on September 10 that wounded 77 American soldiers, attacks on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters and a June 28 attack on an Intercontinental Hotel. The Afghan government accused the ISI of organizing the September 20 assassination of former Afghan President Rabbani, who was leading negotiations with the Taliban. Pakistan’s reaction has been to brush it off.
The unfortunate reality is that until Pakistan stops facilitating acts of terrorism in Afghanistan, the country cannot be stabilized. This support is also critical to Al-Qaeda’s survival. The Pentagon report says that the Haqqani network is the group’s “most significant enabler” and Al-Qaeda views the Taliban as “integral” to its own campaigns. In a new BBC documentary titled “Secret Pakistan,” a Taliban fighter says that Al-Qaeda operatives identify candidates for suicide bombings in Pakistani terrorist camps run by members of the ISI. These candidates are then set apart for specialized instruction.
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