US defence secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday pressured Pakistan to do more to root out the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani terrorist network, saying American officials are “reaching the limits of our patience”.
At a news conference in neighbouring Afghanistan, Panetta repeatedly emphasised US frustration with attackers crossing the border from Pakistan.
It’s essential that Pakistan stop “allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces,” he said alongside Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
“We have made that very clear time and time again and we will continue to do that, but as I said, we are reaching the limits of our patience,” he said.
Panetta’s explicit and repeated criticism of Pakistan’s inaction, which he also voiced in his visit to India, appeared to signal a somewhat tougher stance and a suggestion that the US is becoming even more willing and quick to strike terrorist targets inside Pakistan.
A senior US official acknowledged Thursday that the recent increase in drone strikes on insurgents in Pakistan is due in part to frustration with Islamabad. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.
The Haqqani group has been blamed for several attacks on Americans in Afghanistan, including last year’s assault against the US embassy and Nato headquarters with rocket-propelled grenades. The group, which also has ties to the Taliban, has emerged as perhaps the biggest threat to stability in Afghanistan.
US lawmakers from both parties have been urging the state department to designate the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organisation.
The United States has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid for its support in fighting Islamist militants. Despite pressure from the US, Pakistan has remained reluctant to go after insurgents, particularly the Haqqani network.