US links Pakistan to group it blames for Kabul attack

Islamabad (Reuters) – The United States accused Pakistan yesterday of having links to a militant group Washington blames for an attack on the US embassy and other targets in Kabul and said the government in Islamabad must cut those ties.

“The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani network,” the US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan in comments aired yesterday.

“There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.”

The Haqqani network is one of three, and perhaps the most feared, of the Taliban allied insurgent factions fighting US-led NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.

Insurgents in a bomb-laden truck occupied a building in Kabul on Tuesday, raining rockets and gunfire on the US embassy and other targets in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital, and battled police during a 20 hour siege.

Five Afghan police and 11 civilians were killed.

Washington has long blamed militants sheltering in Pakistan for violence in Afghanistan. Islamabad says its forces are taking high casualties fighting insurgents, and bristles at any suggestion it provides support for fighters.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Pakistan on Wednesday the United States would “do everything we can” to defend US forces from Pakistan-based militants staging attacks in Afghanistan.

Munter suggested ties with Pakistan, which relies heavily on billions of dollars of US aid, were still heavily strained, despite recent comments from both sides on strong counter-terrorism cooperation.

“These relations today need a lot of work,” he said.

The Haqqani network is perhaps the most divisive issue between the two allies, whose ties have been badly damaged by the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for reaction on Munter’s comments.

“The key here is that this is going to take a real effort to work together, to agree who the enemy is, to make sure that we identify those people who will attack Pakistanis, Afghans, and Ameri-cans, that we do not give them any space anywhere,” Munter told Radio Pakistan.

“These people have to be pursued everywhere. We will work with our Pakistani friends to make that happen but we cannot put up with this kind of fight. We have to make sure that in our talks with your leadership, we figure out the best way to put these attacks to an end.”

The United States has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to go after the network, which it believes is one of the most lethal organisations in Afghanistan and enjoys sanctuaries in North Waziristan, a global hub for militants near the Afghan border.

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