Islamabad, Oct 21: In a blunt message to Pakistan, the US today asked it to act against the Haqqani network within “days and weeks” and “squeeze” the dreaded terror group responsible for attacks in Afghanistan, saying Islamabad could not keep “snakes” in its backyard to strike its neighbours.
“It's like that old story - you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard,” visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
Clinton, who arrived here yesterday with a high-level delegation that included CIA director David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Martin Dempsey, had earlier said the US intended to “push the Pakistanis very hard” to remove militant safe havens and tackle groups like the Haqqani network that are responsible for cross-border strikes.
She told the news conference: “We should be able to agree that for too long extremists have been able to operate here in Pakistan and from Pakistani soil. No one who targets innocent civilians, whether they be Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans or anyone else should be tolerated or protected.”
As part of discussions on pressing issues like the Afghan peace process and reconciliation with the Afghan-Taliban, Pakistan and the US will have to work jointly on efforts to “squeeze” the Haqqani network and prevent it from planning and executing attacks across the border, she said.
Clinton said her discussions in this regard included “specifics” and the US now looked forward to operationalising these measures in “days and weeks, not months and years as there is a lot of work to do.”
She did not give details about the specifics. Clinton said that during her talks with the leadership here, the US side asked very specifically for greater cooperation from Pakistan “to squeeze the Haqqani network and other terrorists because we know that trying to eliminate terrorists and safe havens on one side of the border is not going to work.”
“We look to Pakistan to take strong steps to deny Afghan insurgents safe havens and to encourage the Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith,” she said.
Khar did not respond to questions about the US demand for action against groups like the Haqqani network and said Pakistan's future strategies would be guided by a resolution adopted by a recent meeting of the country's political parties, which had called for giving “peace a chance.”
Pakistan-US relations could not be based on a “to do list” and the two sides need to forge an “operational convergence or operation work plan” to facilitate the endgame in Afghanistan, Khar said.
“In evolving any future strategy, the government will be guided by the All Parties Conference resolution, which calls on the government to give peace a chance,” she said, referring to the document that called for dialogue to end the unrest in Pakistan's northwest.
Asked about Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's recent remarks warning the US against launching any unilateral operation against the Haqqani network in its stronghold of North Waziristan, Clinton said she agreed with Kayani that “Pakistan is not Afghanistan or Iraq.”
However, she said Pakistan “has a very full and comprehensive agenda of issues to address both domestically and internationally” and the US will continue to work with the Pakistan government on that agenda.