By Ali K Chishti
Despite mutual mistrust, it is certain that Adm. Mullen's successor Gen Martin Dempsey will be a regular visitor to Islamabad?
"First we will kill the Haqqanis and then we will negotiate with the Taliban," said Joe Collins, a former special assistant to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman who now teaches at a war college.
"Enough is enough" is the sentiment in Washington, after a series of major insurgent attacks in Afghanistan linked to the Haqqani Network, which the US says is being supported by Pakistan.
The most blatant allegations on Pakistan Army came from its biggest ally in Pentagon - Admiral Mike Mullen. The retiring Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said Pakistan was exporting terrorism in Afghanistan through proxy groups, and that the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network was a "veritable arm" of the ISI.
Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the powerful ISI chief, rushed to Washington the same week. Sources in the Pentagon say he was shown evidence of ISI's support to the Haqqani Network, including locations of compounds where explosives were manufactured "to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan".
"For the first time, Gen Pasha was caught red-handed," a senior US defence official said.
"The fundamental problem is mistrust," says former Gitmo chief prosecutor Col Davis Morris. "Especially after Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad, there is suspicion in the US that Pakistan has been duplicitous in the war on terror," he told TFT. "And that is our concern."
The ISI chief was asked to let the US talk directly with the Haqqanis. But he has been hesitant
Aaron Mayes, a terrorism analyst at the University of Maryland, believes the relationship between the US and Pakistan is complicated. "The US is getting very frustrated. Also, now that Mullen is stepping down, he is free to vent. Clearly he is pretty annoyed," he said. "As an analyst, I understand what Pakistan is doing - but it is short-sighted. US wishes there were someone reliable to work with, but there isn't. Military is focused on India and maintaining its position, the civilian government is feckless and the whole country is burning down."
Pakistan says it believes the US should include the Haqqani Network in negotiations for a stable post-US Afghanistan.
A source in Washington said the ISI chief was asked to let the US talk directly with the Haqqanis. "But he has been hesitant, and that is a problem. They want everything to go through them, as if Afghanistan is an extension of Pakistan."
A top Department of Defence spokesman said military ties between the US and Pakistan had improved since they hit their lowest point after the May 2 raid on bin Laden's compound, and a number of top officials are making an effort to bridge the gap.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt John Kirby said Cent Com Commander Gen James Mattis visited General Kayani days after Adm. Mullen's hard talk to ease the tensions. "I'm sure he is going to continue to engage, as is [ISAF commander] Gen [John] Allen."
But some US military commanders are sceptical of this approach. Several call for 'hot pursuits' within Pakistan and blame the ISI for the increasing insurgency in South and East Afghanistan. State Department officials are quietly advocating more diplomacy and according to Jeff York, a former official who had worked in Pakistan, "they understand Al Qaeda would want to create and exploit differences between stakeholders in Afghanistan". Tensions between Pakistan and the US are strategically good for Al Qaeda, he said.
Daniel Markey, a former State Department official now with the Council on Foreign Relations, says Pakistan is hedging its bets when it comes to going after insurgent groups within its borders. "Pakistan seeks to have some influence in Afghanistan and one of the things that it's come upon is the use of militant groups to expand their influence that includes the Haqqani Network," Markey says.
And that is why it seems certain that Mullen's successor Gen Martin Dempsey will be a regular visitor to Islamabad and the GHQ.
Ali Chishti is a TFT reporter based in Karachi.
Source: The Friday Times, Lahore