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PAKISTAN: Officials reject U.S. charges of links to Haqqani group

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REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan on Thursday angrily rejected Washington’s allegations that it maintains links with the Haqqani network, an Afghan militant group believed to be behind a 20-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul last week. The government also warned the U.S. that it would not tolerate any ground operation to hunt down militants on its soil.

Since the Sept. 13 attack on the embassy in the heart of the Afghan capital, U.S. military and civilian leaders have urged Pakistan’s primary intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, to sever its ties with the Haqqani group, an ally with the Taliban that uses northwest tribal Pakistan as a base from which to launch attacks on Western and Afghan forces in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan.

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The language coming from Washington has been particularly strong, with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, accusing the ISI of using the Haqqani network to wage a proxy war against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Islamabad that the U.S. will ‘take whatever steps are necessary to protect our forces.’

Asked at a news conference in Islamabad if there was any truth to Mullen’s charge, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua tersely answered, “I would say a categoric no.”

In an interview with the Reuters news service, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik also rejected allegations of any ties between Pakistan’s intelligence community and the Haqqani network, adding that ‘the Pakistan nation will not allow the boots on our ground, never. ... They must respect our sovereignty,” an apparent reference to Panetta’s remarks.

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-- Alex Rodriguez


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