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Why Admiral Mullen is talking tough with Pakistan over Haqqani militants

In an uncharacteristically blunt move, US Adm. Mike Mullen said publicly that Pakistan had a 'longstanding relationship' with the Haqqani militant group. The US appears to be both prodding Pakistan to finally root out militants in its border region and attempting to set the parameters for Afghan peace talks.

By Staff writer / April 21, 2011

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (l.) listens to Pakistan's Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne during a meeting in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Wednesday, April 20. Mullen is visiting Pakistan at a time of tensions over America's role in the region.

Inter Services Public Relations/AP

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New Delhi

With unusual bluntness, America’s top military officer publicly accused Pakistani intelligence as having a “longstanding relationship” with a US enemy, the Haqqani Network. By zeroing in on this faction within the Afghan insurgency, the US appears to be prodding Pakistan to finally root out militants and attempting to set the parameters for Afghan peace talks.

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“It’s fairly well known that the ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network,” Adm. Mike Mullen told the Pakistan newspaper Dawn before a meeting with Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. “Haqqani is supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans and killing coalition partners. And I have a sacred obligation to do all I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Led by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, the Haqqani Network operates out of Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency. Holed up with them are intertwined global jihadists from groups that include Al Qaeda. The Pakistani military has led military operations to root out militants in other tribal areas but says it will not be able to tackle North Waziristan anytime soon.

For the Americans, time is running out for military progress on the Afghan border, however.

“The US announced certain deadlines, they want to start pullout [of Afghanistan] by July 2011, and give up security of Afghanistan by 2014. To do that, they need changes on the grounds quickly,” says Ijaz Khattak, professor of international relations at Pakistan's Peshawar University. “The Haqqani Network has become a very serious bone of contention” between the US and Pakistan.

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