WASHINGTON: The top US military officer stuck to his guns even as the White House and State Department sought to distance themselves from his remarks that Haqqani network was ‘a veritible arm’ of ISI.Mullen said he would not change a word of his testimony. “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased,” he said in an interview with the popular National Public Radio (NPR).“The ISI specifically has enough support for the Haqqanis in terms of financial support, logistic support and actually, sort of free passage in the safe haven and those links are part of what enable the Haqqanis to carry out their mission,”
“I just think those links have to be broken. I don’t believe they can be broken overnight, but if they’re broken, I think that fundamentally changes the viability of that safe haven and the overall strategy,” he asserted.Mullen, who has met General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the Pak Army Chief at least 30 times in the last two and half years, said he spoke to the latter about taking action against the Haqqani network.“I’ve talked about them supporting it. When Gen Kayani and I have talked about this in the past, he’s not a big fan of the Haqqani network.”
It’s a very lethal, very virulent insurgent terrorist group that you just can’t walk up to and eliminate. So it isn’t anything that could be done anywhere close to overnight. We talked about how to do it in the past, from my perspective, that’s really up to the Pakistanis to figure out,” he said.Mullen said General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is the most powerful man in Pakistan who controls the military-run ISI which supports terror groups like Haqqani network and LeT, using them as proxies.The depiction of Kayani as the most powerful man was made by Mullen who who has long been considered to be the closest friend of Pakistani generals.
Mullen, who hangs his fighting boots at the end of this month, said Kayani wanted a secure border on both sides of Pakistan, to a question if the general was seeking peace with India. “In many discussions I’ve had with him, he would much rather have a stable, peaceful environment on both his borders than the one he has right now,” Mullen said in response.“Does General Kayani want to make peace with India?” a durable peace with India?” the Admiral was asked by the Radio.“You asked me about what he feels, what he believes and what we talks about. I think that’s the longer-term view, is peace and stability on those two borders, which is what would present opportunities to have a growing economy, forward investment, a stable country moving in the right direction,” Mullen said.
In the last two and half years, Mullen has met Kayani about 30 times. “The military is a very important organisation in that country, but it shouldn’t be the only organisation that we engage,” Mullen said.“Engagements with the civilian leaders, engagements with the economic leaders, engagements in the region,” he said.I’ve said for a long time: I think unlocking Kashmir, which is a very difficult issue on the Pakistan-India border, is one that opens it all up, and I think -??” I believe we have to continue to try to, all of us, figure out a way to work that as well,” Mullen observed.
Recalling his visit to Pakistan in 2008, the American military chief said, “One of the things that I spoke to the political and military leadership about was this whole issue of supporting insurgent groups or proxies.And another one that, quite frankly, historically, has been the LeT, basically, originally created to focus on the challenges in Kashmir.”“They are now actually spreading to West. But it’s a part of the strategy, from my perspective, that is there to enhance the security of the country. That’s how it is thought about there,” Mullen said.“You’re saying the Pakistanis think of these groups as weapons that they can use at some point,” he was asked.
“Clearly to ensure that their security is going to be improved,” Mullen said.“It is that linkage that I felt for a long time has to be broken,” he said. “I’m not asserting that the Pak military or the ISI has complete control over the Haqqanis. But the Haqqanis run that safe haven. They’re also a home to Al-Qaeda in that safe haven. And I am losing American soldiers. The Haqqanis are killing American soldiers. And from that perspective, I think it’s got to be addressed, which is the reason I spoke to it.”
Mullen acknowledged that Pakistanis have a ‘huge trust deficit’ with the United States and that it’s a ‘difficult relationship,’ but, he said, the two countries have worked through tough times before.“I’m just one that believes we need to continue to work on it and, if we don’t, the longer-term dangers of not having a relationship and not trying to close this gap far outweigh what we’re going through right now,” he said.Admiral Mullen told CNN Wednesday that elements in Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were ‘very active’ with the Haqqani network launching attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.
Asked by CNN if he overstated the situation to Congress, Mullen repeated that a link exists but referred to elements in the spy network as opposed to some kind of formal structure.“There are elements I think of the ISI very active with Haqqani,” Mullen said, adding that “the piece” of the ISI “that is so focused on sending Taliban and insurgents into Afghanistan” from safe havens in Pakistan must be addressed by both the US and Pakistan’s government and military. – Nation