Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. may have to consider a military response to the government of Pakistan’s alleged support of a terrorist group that attacked the American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said.
“We need to put Pakistan on notice,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed services Committee, said today on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “If they continue to embrace terrorism as a part of their national strategy, we’re going to have to put all options on the table, including defending our troops.”
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said lawmakers would muster bipartisan support “to elevate our response” if needed. He didn’t specify what actions he would back.
Pakistan must stop providing safe havens for the Haqqani group, said David Plouffe, a White House senior adviser, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” U.S. and Afghan officials have said the network of militants, supported by Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s main spy agency, is behind a Sept. 13 assault on the U.S. embassy with rocket-propelled grenades.
In a statement, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday denied his government’s ties to the Haqqani group and said U.S. policy on Afghanistan shows “confusion and disarray.” The U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan need to better coordinate action to fight terrorism, he said.
Graham said that Congress should reconsider its practice of approving a designated amount of aid for Pakistan. The administration is talking about whether to change its requests for aid to the country, Plouffe said.
“Those discussions are happening between our foreign policy and national security teams,” he said. Severing the alleged connection between the Haqqanis and the Pakistan government is “going to be a very important aim for us in the coming period of time.”
The U.S. said in July it was withholding about $800 million in aid because of steps Pakistan took following the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, creating difficulties between the two countries.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the armed services panel on Sept. 22 that the Haqqani network also conducted the June 28 attack at the Inter- Continental Hotel in Kabul.
The Haqqani group, based in eastern Afghanistan and the Pakistani region of Waziristan, has claimed responsibility or been blamed by the Afghan, U.S. and Indian governments for attacks on Kabul in the past three years against the Indian Embassy, government ministries and hotels where foreign diplomats or aid workers were living.
There may be little the U.S. can do to halt Pakistan’s support for militants, according to Tom Lynch, a former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs who is now a research fellow for the Near East and South Asia at the National Defense University in Washington.
Given the fragility of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the dangers of a new confrontation with India, even the leverage the U.S. has is very difficult to use, he has said.
A legal obstacle to a military attack on the Haqqani organization inside Pakistan is the fact that the State Department has never designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Three of its leaders have been identified as terrorists and 49 other groups have been named FTOs.
--With assistance from John Walcott and Tony Capaccio in Washington. Editors: Steve Walsh, Carlos Torres
To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Heidi Przybyla in Washington at email@example.com
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