Bloomberg News

Clinton Pressing Pakistan for Joint Covert Action on Insurgents

October 24, 2011

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan will suffer “dire consequences” if it fails to “contain” terrorists operating from its soil, and it needs the U.S. and Afghanistan to help get the job done.

The Obama administration isn’t asking Pakistan’s military to occupy its rugged border regions, the base for extremist groups that attack U.S., allied and Afghan forces on the other side, Clinton said in an interview with Bloomberg News following two days of meetings in Islamabad.

There are “different ways of fighting besides overt military action,” she said.

Clinton said she pressed Pakistan to fully share intelligence with U.S. forces in Afghanistan to prevent attacks and choke off money and supply routes. Better coordination might prevent incidents like the Sept. 20 assault on the American Embassy in Kabul, which the U.S. blames on the Haqqani network, she said.

"We can go after funding. We can go after couriers,’’ she said she told Pakistani leaders.

Already strained ties with Pakistan were exacerbated by the U.S. commando assault in May that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near Islamabad. Clinton, along with CIA Director David Petraeus and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Army Chief of Staff, and Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Recent Cooperation

Clinton praised recent cooperation against al-Qaeda as a model for how to crack down on the Haqqanis as well as the Taliban, based in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta.

“Because of intelligence sharing and mutual cooperation, we have targeted three of the top al-Qaeda operatives since bin Laden’s death. That could not have happened without Pakistani cooperation,” she said.

Pakistan’s political parties came together last month behind a resolution to seek talks and a cease-fire with insurgents rather than an all-out military assault. Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani urged the Americans “to give peace a chance” before pressing his military for more, he said in a statement.

Clinton said the U.S. message to Pakistan was that the same insurgents who have launched lethal attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets may unleash their violence inside Pakistan.

Clinton said she urged Pakistan’s leaders to take advantage of the roughly 130,000-troop, U.S.-led NATO force next door in Afghanistan while it’s still there. The U.S. and NATO have begun pulling out troops and plan to hand full security control to Afghanistan’s government by the end of 2014.

‘Squeeze’ Opportunity

In the coming months, forces from Pakistan and the coalition in Afghanistan should “squeeze” the Taliban and allied extremists, such as the Haqqani network, which operate on both sides of the border.

“There’s no way that any government in Islamabad can control these groups,” Clinton said in the Oct. 22 interview, conducted in Tajikistan as she wrapped up a seven-nation trip across the Mideast and south-central Asia.

There is an “opportunity, while we are still with 48 nations across the border in Afghanistan, where we have a lot of assets that we can put at their disposal” to help Pakistan.

The Pakistanis said they “have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t cause chaos” in their country, she recounted. She said the U.S. and Pakistan agreed on “90 to 95 percent of what needs to be done” and the two countries will work on what “next steps we take together.”

Before retiring as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last month, Admiral Mike Mullen testified before Congress that the Haqqani network is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy agency, sparking angry denials from Islamabad.

‘Enhanced Operations’

U.S. and Afghan troops have recently begun what they call “enhanced operations” against guerrillas in Afghanistan’s Khost province, which abuts the Pakistani region where the Haqqani network is based.

Asked if U.S. troops in Afghanistan will launch cross- border attacks if Pakistan fails to act, Clinton replied, “There’s a lot going on that is aimed at these safe havens, and we will continue to work with them on that.”

Clinton also defended U.S. efforts of encourage the Afghans and Pakistanis to seek negotiations to disarm militants. Reconciliation efforts have gone nowhere since Clinton announced the Obama administration’s support for talks early last year. A Taliban agent posing as a peace envoy assassinated Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, on Sept. 13.

Negotiations are “a bumpy process” requiring “patience and persistence that we’re willing to invest, in order to determine what’s real and what’s not,” she said.

Libya ‘Score-Settling’

Before stopping in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton visited Libya Oct. 18, where she called on the rebels who ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi to refrain from vigilantism and “score-settling” and instead uphold the rule of law.

Asked why U.S. officials appeared to cheer the news of Qaddafi’s death two days later, in light of video footage suggesting was summarily executed after he was captured alive, Clinton denied that the U.S. celebrated his death.

The Obama administration considers Qaddafi’s demise an opening for Libya to start its transition to democracy, she said. She praised the transitional government for pledging a full investigation of his death.

“It sends the right signal that we can’t start on a path toward democracy, rule of law, human rights without trying to understand and hold accountable anyone who acted in a way that violates those precepts,” she said.

An autopsy confirmed yesterday that Qaddafi died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to Libya’s chief pathologist, Dr. Othman al-Zintani.

Iranian Plot

Asked about U.S. charges that Iran plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Clinton said the U.S. has shared evidence widely and is raising awareness of dangerous “Iranian interference in the internal affairs of many countries.”

The U.S. for years has been raising the alarm about Iran’s growing influence in “Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia,” where Iran has embassies staffed with spies and members of the Quds force, which was implicated in the plot against the Saudi ambassador, she said.

Until now, few considered Iran a danger to them, she said. The U.S. can now say, “No, guess what? It is about you,” she said.

Clinton said there’s no U.S. plan for punishing Iran beyond sanctions. “What we want to do is convince people that behavior like this is why we need to enforce the sanctions we have,” she said.

--Editors: Steven Komarow, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: Indira A.R. Lakshmanan in Dushanbe at ilakshmanan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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