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'US, Pak plan joint operations against Haqqani network'

August 05, 2012 19:42 IST
After over a year of rancorous relations, United States and Pakistani authorities are considering to launch joint counter-terrorism operations against the dreaded Haqqani network, which has carried out several attacks on American troops, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The operations would be intended to help stamp out major security threats facing each country, targeting what the US says are sanctuaries for the Haqqani network in Pakistan, and what Pakistan says are sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan, said officials familiar with the proposal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the plans are considered, at best, promising US officials have long pressed Pakistani counterparts to target the Haqqani group, without success. US says the Haqqani network acts like a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani military, a charge Pakistan denies.

The potential US-Pakistani plans were discussed in meetings in Washington this week involving ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam and top officials of the CIA, US State Department and Pentagon, as well as top lawmakers, the newspaper reported citing the officials familiar with the talks.

Also discussed was Pakistan's demand for a halt to CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. No agreement was reached on any changes to the programme, the officials said.

US and Pakistani officials both described this week's meetings as productive and indicative of a higher level of trust than in previous meetings.

Until now, counter-terrorism negotiations between the sides have been largely on hold after US forces killed 24 Pakistani troops near Afghanistan's border in November amid miscommunications between the sides.

As tensions rose over the US's refusal to apologise for the incident, the new Pakistani intelligence chief deferred a June invitation from the CIA to visit Washington.

A US decision in July to say it was sorry for the Pakistani soldiers' deaths jump-started talks over the highly contentious CIA drone programme and US demands that Pakistan target the Haqqani network. Islamabad then announced that ISI chief would make his first trip to the US.

On Thursday, CIA Director David Petraeus hosted a dinner for Lt Gen Islam.

"Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work together to counter the terrorist presence in the region that threatens both US and Pakistani national security," a top US official said of the Petraeus-Islam meeting.

In meetings with Petraeus and other officials, Lt Gen Islam explained that US concessions on drones and the Taliban sites in Afghanistan would give Islamabad room to build domestic support for counter-terrorism work with the US.

Under this proposal, the US would also work with Pakistan to control the Afghan side of the border, so militants driven out couldn't escape into the Afghan border region, officials said.

The Pakistanis have named the planned offensive, in North Waziristan, Operation Tight Screw.

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