‘We have offered American authorities to visit Pakistan with evidence of Haqqani network’s safe havens in the country,’ Khawaja Asif told local news channel Express News.
‘If they find any activity [of Haqqanis] in the targeted areas, our troops, along with the US, would destroy them once and for all.’
Asif met US secretary of state Rex Tillerson in Washington on October 4. The two reportedly discussed Afghanistan among other topics.
Asif’s offer on the Haqqani Network is probably just a bit of posturing. It is unlikely the US would want to share actionable intelligence with a government that is likely to tip off the intended targets.
However, Asif is also challenging the US with his words. In August, US President Donald Trump berated Pakistan for support to terrorists. The Pakistan government has since responded with blanket denials. Last week, Pakistan’s top military spokesperson strained credulity by claiming there were ‘no organised bases of any terrorist organisations in the country anymore.’
In September, foreign minister Asif had claimed the Haqqani Network was based out of eastern Afghanistan and not Pakistan. The next day, a suspected US drone fired two missiles at a home in Pakistan’s Kurram tribal district bordering Afghanistan, killing three. The home reportedly belonged to a ‘loyalist’ of the Haqqani Network.
The Haqqani Network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a native of eastern Afghanistan. As an anti-Soviet insurgent in the 1980s, Haqqani received ‘an extraordinary share’ of CIA-funded weaponry through the ISI.
In July 2008, the Haqqani Network bombed the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 54. US intelligence intercepted communications between the perpetrators and their ISI handlers. Anonymous sources in the Indian government also told CNN-IBN that they believed the 324 Military Intelligence Battalion based in Peshawar helped plan the attack.
On September 13 2011, Haqqani Network gunmen and suicide bombers attacked the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul as well as other buildings. Less than two weeks later, then chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the Haqqani Network ‘acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence’.
Asif’s words come ahead of expected visits to Islamabad by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary Jim Mattis.
While ties between the two countries are not about to return the state that they were in even a decade ago, there are strong reasons for both sides to improve relations.
Crucially, Pakistan remains the main supply route for US forces in Afghanistan and is likely to continue playing an outsize role in determining that country’s future.
Little wonder Jim Mattis told a senate hearing last week that he would try ‘one more time’ to ‘see if we can make this work.’
For its part, Pakistan would hardly like to have poor relations with the most powerful country in the world. It would also like to continue receiving US military aid, even if this has been greatly reduced.
Finally, as scholar Andrew Small notes, Islamabad and its chief sponsor, Beijing, understand that healthy US-Pakistan ties ‘place implicit limits on the scope of US-India relations.’