U.S. officials warn Pakistan about insurgent havens
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ISLAMABAD -- An unusually powerful U.S. delegation arrived here Thursday to deliver the starkest warning yet to Pakistan, according to a senior U.S. official: The United States would act unilaterally if necessary to attack extremist groups that use the country as a haven to kill Americans.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, new Central Intelligence Agency Director David H. Petraeus and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, planned to push their Pakistani counterparts to make a definitive choice between fighting terrorists or supporting them, the administration official said.
"This is a time for clarity," Ms. Clinton said in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she met President Hamid Karzai before leaving for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. "No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price.
"There's no place to go any longer," Ms. Clinton added, referring to Pakistan's leaders, whom the administration has accused of equivocating by supporting the Afghan insurgency.
The U.S. and Pakistani officials, who included the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the intelligence service director general, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met for four hours, ending after 2 a.m. A senior administration official said afterward that the two sides had agreed to keep talking today and did not want to comment in the meantime. Mr. Petraeus met separately with Gen. Pasha, a Pakistani official said.
Earlier, another senior Pakistani official said Ms. Clinton's remarks in Kabul did not "enable the atmosphere." They did, however, underscore a growing U.S. realization that hopes for a smooth withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014 now hinged on Pakistan's willingness to confront insurgent groups based in the country, who have had the support of Pakistan's intelligence service.
Before the meeting, which took place at the residence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a senior administration official said the delegation would make clear that if the Pakistanis did not act against insurgents such as the Haqqani network, then the United States would have to do so.
The Haqqani network uses Pakistan's tribal areas as a base and has become the most potent part of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Before stepping down last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Dempsey's predecessor, called the Haqqanis "a veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence service.
The accusation added to tensions in the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, which plummeted to a new low this year, as Pakistan arrested a CIA contractor and U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden deep inside the country in May.
The Obama administration decided to take a harder line with Pakistan during a White House meeting Sept. 29 in the wake of a 19-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by heavily armed insurgents linked to the Haqqani network. The senior administration official said the administration's previous efforts to press the Pakistanis to sever support for extremists had clearly failed and now required a more confrontational approach. "Soft love hasn't worked," the official said.
Pakistan's response remains to be seen. In recent weeks, Pakistani officials have sent conflicting signals, both publicly and privately. Mr. Gilani greeted the U.S. delegation warmly, in contrast to a tense meeting with Ms. Clinton and Adm. Mullen in May, after the raid that killed bin Laden. Pakistan's foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, also attended the meetings and dinner.
First Published October 21, 2011 12:00 am