WASHINGTON: After sweet words that followed the arrest earlier this month of Al-Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauritania, US officials again turning their guns on Pakistan, warned Thursday that Washington would ‘do everything it can’ to defend American forces from Pakistan-based militants staging attacks in Afghanistan.US officials, including Panetta, say they suspect militants from the Haqqani network were behind Tuesday’s rocket attack on the US Embassy compound in Kabul, as well as a truck bomb last Saturday that wounded 77 American forces.
“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis. And we have made very little progress in that area,” Panetta told reporters Wednesday while flying with him to San Francisco, according to media reports. He added, “I think the message they (the Pakistanis) need to know is: we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces.” The defence secretary refused to say whether the US plans to take any new military actions, but there has been an escalating US campaign of drone strikes into Pakistan’s border regions.
But Panetta said he was concerned about the Haqqanis’ ability to attack American troops and then ‘escape back into what is a safe haven in Pakistan.’ “And that’s unacceptable,” Panetta said. Panetta, who was CIA’s director until July, has long pressed Islamabad to go after the Haqqanis, stated to be the most feared of the Taliban-allied insurgent factions fighting US-led Nato and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
“I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. I’ll just let you know that we are not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on,” Panetta said.Panetta stressed the attacks themselves were repelled by Afghan forces and inflicted a limited number of casualties. The US military has cited gains against the Taliban in the past year, particularly in southern Afghanistan.
“These kinds of attacks – sporadic attacks and assassination attempts – are more a reflection of the fact that they’re losing their ability to be able to attack our forces on a broader scale,” Panetta said.Asked whether the attack raised concerns about the Afghans’ ability to take over their own security, Panetta said that overall their response was good. He repeated US assertions that the violence levels in Afghanistan continue to decline, and that the Taliban has been weakened.
“These kinds of sporadic attacks and assassination attempts are more a reflection of the fact that they are losing their ability to be able to attack our forces on a broader scale,” Panetta said.Agencies add: Panetta expressed frustration with Islamabad, warning that the US will not allow attacks on US forces from Pakistan-based insurgents like the Haqqani network to continue.
He warned the United States would retaliate against insurgents based in Pakistan.Panetta’s tough words come amid strained relations with Islamabad following the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout on May 2, a raid that Panetta oversaw while he was CIA director.“I’m very concerned about the Haqqani attacks because, number one, they’re killing people, they’re killing our forces.
“But number two, they escape back into what is a safe haven in Pakistan. And that’s unacceptable. So the message they need to know is that we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces.”
The 19-hour Taliban assault on Kabul turned the city’s most heavily secured district into a battle zone. Fifteen people were killed and six foreign troops wounded in the attack.The insurgents managed to occupy a high-rise building site that towers over the US embassy and Nato’s headquarters in Afghanistan, firing rockets and spraying gunfire well inside a supposedly secure zone.
The bold assault is the latest in a series of attacks in Kabul that suggest the Taliban can move with apparent ease around the capital, a decade after their regime was ousted by US-led forces.The violence raised questions about the Western-backed government’s security forces, which are supposed to gradually take over responsibility from the NATO-led mission.
Panetta said, “The Afghans responded quickly and casualties were limited.”“Basically they were able to defeat their effort,” Panetta said.Despite Tuesday’s attack, the defence secretary said the Taliban-led insurgency has lost ground and could no longer directly confront Nato troops.Panetta flew to San Francisco for an annual meeting of the US-Australia alliance, attended by foreign and defence ministers from each country.Meanwhile, the Afghan interior minister said on Thursday that mobile telephones used by the six attackers who fought off Western and Afghan forces for 20 hours in this week’s attack on Kabul showed they were in touch with people outside the country during the siege.
Interior Minister Bismillah Mohmmadi said that security forces had found six mobile phones and weapons in the building after the last of the gunmen were killed on Wednesday.
“The evidence we have received shows they were communicating, and were led from outside Afghanistan,” he said in a video released to journalists by his ministry.He did not identify the country involved, but US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John R Allen, said they believed the attack was launched by the Haqqani network.“Terrorists bases are outside Afghanistan. They get equipped there and receive training and then come and kill our innocent people,” Mohmmadi said. – Nation