South Asia

Pakistan minister hits out at US on Kabul attack charge

Pakistani foreign minister - Hina Rabbani Khar - August 2011
Image caption Ms Khar warns that the US cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people

Pakistan's foreign minister has warned that the US could lose Pakistan as an ally if it continues to publicly accuse Islamabad of supporting militants.

Hina Rabbani Khar told Geo TV that the US could not afford to alienate Pakistan's government or its people.

The White House kept up the pressure on Friday, urging Islamabad to break any links it has with the Haqqani network.

On Thursday, the US military accused Pakistan's spy agency of helping the group in a recent attack on Kabul.

Some 25 people died in an assault on the US embassy and other buildings.

Pakistan denies its intelligence service has links with the Haqqani network and says it is determined to fight all militants based on its border with Afghanistan.

'At your own cost'

"You will lose an ally," Hina Rabbani Khar told Geo TV in New York, where she has been attending the UN General Assembly.

"You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," she said. "If they are choosing to do so it will be at their own cost."

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also weighed in, telling reporters: "They can't live with us. They can't live without us.

"So, I would say to them that if they can't live without us, they should increase contacts with us to remove misunderstandings."

He and Ms Khar were responding to Adm Mike Mullen's testimony on Thursday when he told a Senate panel: "The Haqqani network... acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted a truck bomb attack [on 11 September], as well as the assault on our embassy," said Adm Mullen who steps down this month as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

White House spokesman Jay Carney accused Pakistan of failing to take action against Haqqani network "safe havens" on its soil.

"It is critical that the government of Pakistan break any links they have and take strong and immediate action against this network so that they are no longer a threat to the United States or to the people of Pakistan," he said.

'Serious difficulties'

US-Pakistan ties have deteriorated sharply since the killing by US commandos of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil in May.

The last 24 hours have seen some of the angriest exchanges between the countries since they declared their uneasy alliance against militants 10 years ago.

"At the operational level it will be appropriate to say that there are serious difficulties" between Islamabad and Washington, Ms Khar admitted.

Ties between the US and Pakistan had already been strained by continuing US drone strikes targeting militants in the tribal areas and the controversy over the release of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistani men in Lahore.

The Haqqani network, which is closely allied to the Taliban and reportedly based in Pakistan, has been blamed for several high-profile attacks against Western, Indian and government targets in Afghanistan.

It is often described by Pakistani officials as a predominantly Afghan group, but correspondents say its roots reach deep inside Pakistani territory, and speculation over its links to Pakistan's security establishment refuses to die down.

US officials have long been frustrated at what they perceive to be Pakistani inaction against the Haqqani network, and analysts say US concern about the group's capabilities is particularly acute as Nato begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, Washington said it could target the Haqqani network on Pakistani soil if the authorities there failed to take action against the militants.

Pakistan says it has taken very strict action whenever it has received information about militant groups.