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'Pak rebuffs US on Taliban crackdown'

world Updated: Dec 15, 2009 14:17 IST
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Demands by the US for Pakistan to crack down on the strongest Taliban warrior in Afghanistan Siraj Haqqani, whose fighters pose the biggest threat to American forces, have been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, according to the New York Times.

The Obama administration wants Pakistan to turn on Haqqani, a longtime asset of Pakistan's spy agency ISI who uses the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary.

But, Pakistani military officials and diplomats cited by the influential US daily said, Pakistan views the entreaties as contrary to its interests in Afghanistan beyond the timetable of President Barack Obama's surge, which envisions drawing down American forces beginning in mid-2011.

The demands, first made by senior American officials before President Obama's Afghanistan speech and repeated many times since, were renewed in a written demarche delivered in recent days by the US embassy to the head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, American officials cited by the Times said. Gen. David Petraeus followed up on Monday during a visit to Islamabad.

The demands have been accompanied by strong suggestions that if the Pakistanis cannot take care of the problem, including dismantling the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, then the Americans will by resorting to broader and more frequent drone strikes in Pakistan.

The core reason for Pakistan's imperviousness to the suggestion is its scant faith in the Obama surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a major regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave, the Times said.

It considers Haqqani and his control of broad swaths of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran in the post-American Afghan arena, unnamed Pakistani officials were quoted as saying.

Pakistan is particularly eager to counter the growing influence of its archenemy, India, which is pouring $1.2 billion in aid into Afghanistan.

"If American walks away, Pakistan is very worried that it will have India on its eastern border and India on its western border in Afghanistan," Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is pro-American in his views, was cited as saying.

For that reason, Fatemi said, the Pakistani Army was "very reluctant" to jettison Haqqani, Pakistan's strong card in Afghanistan.