Understanding with US on joint action against Haqqanis

 WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan have reached an understanding on joint operations against the Haqqani network but no final decision has been taken yet, diplomatic sources told media.

The sources said the issue of cross-border attacks, by the Haqqani network into Afghanistan and by TTP into Pakistan, was discussed in a series of meetings between senior US and Pakistani officials this week.

US and Pakistani diplomatic sources in Washington indicated that the understanding for joint operations against the Haqqani network was reached at a meeting between senior US and Pakistani military commanders in Islamabad on Thursday.

But an influential US newspaper, Wall Street Journal, reported on Sunday that plans for joint operations were discussed in meetings between ISI chief Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam and top CIA, State Department and Pentagon officials in Washington this week.

On Thursday, Gen John Allen,the commander of US-led International Security Assistance Force,met the Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Islamabad. A statement issued after the meeting said the two military chiefs made ‘significant progress’ in improving their operational relationship.

The joint statement gave no details but the Wall Street Journal, reported that the two militaries were considering joint counter-terrorism campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan that would target the Haqqani militant group.

A Pakistani diplomatic source in Washington, however, said that “any understanding on joint operations would also involve action against TTP bases in Afghanistan”.

The group has recently used its bases in Afghanistan to attack Pakistani military posts and villages along the Afghan border, killing scores of people.Another official source in Washington pointed out that no decision on joint operations “can be taken overnight, as it involves major logistic arrangements, such as providing financial support and moving military assets”.

The sources also noted that the US and Pakistan were yet to reach an understanding on Islamabad’s demand for stopping drone strikes in Fata.

At his meetings with the CIA chief and other senior US officials, Gen Islam is believed to have offered a proposal which urges the United States to identify targets and let Pakistani F-16s carry out the attacks.

The US has apparently not accepted this proposal but has promised to look at options that do not involve drones.

“The drone issue could also delay a final decision on joint operations against the Haqqani network,” an official source in Washington said.

US officials are believed to have demanded action against the Haqqani network at almost every meeting they had with Gen Zaheer.

While the Americans focussed on the activities of the Haqqani network, Pakistan stressed the need for taking actions against TTP bases in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials also told the Americans that they have no problem with the US intention of declaring the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organisation.

Last week, the US Congress passed two bills, urging the State Department to put the Haqqani network on its list terrorist outfits.

The designation will require all US allies, including Pakistan, to take punitive actions against the group.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that joint operations would attempt to stamp out both, the Haqqani network’s sanctuaries in Pakistan and TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

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