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NATO Criticizes Pakistan On Terror Fight, As US Softens Tone

  • Kurt Achin

Soldiers near a checkpoint which was attacked by militants in Upper Dir, along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan (File Photo - June 3, 2011).

Soldiers near a checkpoint which was attacked by militants in Upper Dir, along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan (File Photo - June 3, 2011).

NATO is sharply criticizing Pakistan for failing to rein in terrorist and militant groups on its side of the border with Afghanistan. At the same time, ahead of a senior envoy’s visit to the Pakistani capital, Washington is softening its tone of recent weeks and focusing on shared interests.

Top officers of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan say Pakistan needs to do more to rein in militants who are based on its territory but operate in Afghanistan.

Brigadier General Carsten Jacobsen is spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force.

“Pakistan has done a lot against terrorists and insurgents, and paid a considerable price in blood over the last years," said Jacobsen. "There is no question that it is not enough.”

Jacobsen says Pakistan needs to align itself with NATO’s mission by denying militants the ability to regroup on its territory.

“Whether it is Haqqani, or whether it is the Taliban that are looking for safe haven and training facilities in Pakistan, they have to be fought by all of us - Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the international community," he said.

Last month, just before retiring, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen - the highest commander of the U.S. military - called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the ISI.

Mullen's remarks galvanized anti-American sentiment here in Pakistan and drew sharp reactions from an all-parties conference convened by the Pakistani president. The admiral's allegations also fueled U.S. lawmakers' skepticism about the future of American aid to Pakistan.

However, senior U.S. diplomats now appear to be adopting a more conciliatory tone about U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in the fight against terrorists.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is due later this week in Islamabad. In a interview in Kabul on Saturday, he emphasized that 19,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed since 2003.

Grossman says the conversation between the United States and Pakistan is now focused on “how to get our interests shared and then act on them together,” and stressed the need for engagement between the United States and Pakistan.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua says Islamabad welcomes recent statements by Obama administration officials on Pakistan.

“These underscore the importance of having cooperative relations with Pakistan," said Janjua. "Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton has spoken of it as well - she has underscored the importance of the relationship with Pakistan.”

Still, Grossman says Washington will continue “to call on Pakistan to end the safe havens and enablers” that allow militants to carry out guerrilla raids in Afghanistan, then retreat to Pakistan.

The United States and its allies plan to withdraw most of their more than 130,000 Afghanistan-based combat forces by 2014, creating pressure for regional partners to find a framework for stability before then. Washington has repeatedly acknowledged Pakistan’s support is crucial in establishing a long-term peace in Afghanistan.