KABUL: The American-led coalition on Sunday bluntly rebutted an assertion made last week by Pakistan ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman that American forces had on 52 occasions done little over all to stop Taliban militants from using Afghan territory as a springboard for attacks on Pakistani forces in the mountains along the poorly marked frontier, The New York Times reported.
The coalition statement was unusual in its directness. Even at the lowest points in relations between Pakistan and the United States, American officials in Afghanistan have usually left direct public criticism of Pakistan to more senior officials in Washington.
But with Pakistan increasingly trying to draw equivalence between Afghan Taliban havens in their own country and the presence of Pakistan Taliban factions in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces in northeastern Afghanistan, the coalition pushed back unequivocally on Sunday, offering a reminder of the fraught relationship that the United States and Pakistan are struggling to improve.
“Recent allegations that the Pakistani military has notified the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) 52 times that insurgent elements were crossing the Afghan-Pakistan border are incorrect,” it said in a statement, using the coalition’s formal name.
“Whenever the Pakistani military has requested assistance, ISAF immediately dispatched the appropriate force to deal with the issue,” it added.
The coalition did not say how many times Pakistan had requested and received assistance, but American officials said the number was far fewer than 52.
Even in language that was phrased as conciliatory, the coalition statement managed to sneak in what Pakistani officials were likely to see as barbs. It noted that the two sides “shared interests” and then cited the need to move against the Haqqani network as an example.
The Pakistani military’s unwillingness to move against the Haqqanis is one of the main reasons that American officials have been so rankled by Pakistan’s newfound eagerness to say it suffers equally from cross-border attacks.
The coalition’s statement on Sunday was the latest in a tit for tat that has pitted Afghanistan and the United States against Pakistan over how best to address what all three consider to be an intensifying threat: the use of northeastern Afghanistan’s remote valleys and cedar-studded mountains as a haven by competing Taliban factions, Al-Qaeda operatives and other militants from South and Central Asia.
Responding to the coalition statement, Sherry Rehman said, “There is no question of doubting the commitment on fighting terrorists from both sides.”
But Rehman, the official who first raised the 52 occasions at a conference on Friday in Aspen, Colo., added: “We have a critical problem of anti-Pakistan terrorist sanctuaries in Kunar and Nuristan. And we have communicated this at every level and at every opportunity.”
Until recently, all three countries had largely kept the problems in northeastern Afghanistan out of the public debate. But a week ago Afghan officials loudly protested what appeared to be an unusually heavy rocket barrage on villages in Kunar, which has suffered sporadic cross-border bombardment in recent years.
The coalition joined in a few days later. Like the Afghans, it was careful to avoid directly blaming Pakistan for firing the rockets, though it implied that was the case.
Pakistan, for its part, denied firing on Afghan territory.
Then, on Friday, Rehman raised the 52 episodes during a tart exchange in Aspen with Douglas E. Lute, President Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, over what each of their countries was — or was not — doing to eliminate Taliban sanctuaries. -- Agencies
updated 10 months, 24 days ago