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Panetta says US losing patience with Pakistan over terrorists

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed frustration with the Pakistani government Thursday over not doing enough to root out terrorists attacking US troops in Afghanistan.

By Deb Riechmann & Lolita C. BaldorAssociated Press / June 7, 2012

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) speaks with Afghanistan Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak during a joint news conference at the Ministry of Defense in Kabul June 7.

Jim Watson/REUTERS


Kabul, Afghanistan

U.S. Defense 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."

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At a news conference in neighboring Afghanistan, Panetta repeatedly emphasized U.S. 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 Defense 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," Panetta 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 U.S. is becoming even more willing and quick to strike terrorist targets inside Pakistan. A senior U.S. 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' assault against the U.S. 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.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties have been urging the State Department to designate the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization.

The United States has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid for its support in fighting Islamist militants. Despite pressure from the U.S., Pakistan has remained reluctant to go after insurgents, particularly the Haqqani network.

"It is an increasing concern that the safe haven exists and that there are those — likely Haqqanis — who are making use of that to attack our forces," Panetta said in his second day of blunt criticism of Pakistan.

For more than three decades the Haqqani network, led by the elderly Jalaluddin Haqqani, has maintained headquarters in Pakistan's Miran Shah district of North Waziristan. Pakistan has denied aiding the Haqqanis, and the Pakistani military has refused to carry out an offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region, saying it would unleash a tribal-wide war that Pakistan could not contain.

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