Monday, November 29, 1999

U.S. showed Pakistan evidence on militant faction

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The United States has presented evidence to Pakistan that a militant faction aligned with the Taliban and based in Pakistan orchestrated brazen attacks last month in Afghanistan, a top general said on Wednesday.The United States has long pressed the Pakistani military to crack down on the so-called Haqqani faction in the North Waziristan tribal region, which borders Afghanistan, but Islamabad has so far balked at doing so.General David Petraeus, who oversees the Afghan war as head of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing that he, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff raised Haqqani links in a recent meeting with Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Kayani."We have shared information with him about links of the leadership of the Haqqani network located in North Waziristan that clearly commanded and controlled the operation against Bagram air base and the attack in Kabul, among others," Petraeus said.Suicide bombers carrying rockets and grenades launched a brazen predawn attack on the base on May 19, killing an American contractor and wounding nine U.S. troops. About a dozen militants, many wearing suicide vests packed with explosives, were killed, the Pentagon said at the time.A day earlier, a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy in Kabul, killing 12 Afghan civilians and six foreign troops.Bagram is the main base for the U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, with the largest airfield in the country. It was used by the former Soviet Union during its invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.The Pentagon has expressed confidence that Pakistan will eventually mount an offensive in North Waziristan, but said Islamabad would decide on the timing.The Haqqani network has long been described by U.S. forces as one of their biggest enemies in Afghanistan.But there are strategic reasons for Pakistan's hesitancy to attack the Haqqanis.Pakistan sees the group as a strategic asset that will give it influence in any peace settlement in Afghanistan so Islamabad will want those militants on its side.The United States has increased pressure on Pakistan to act in North Waziristan following a botched May 1 car-bombing in New York's Time Square that U.S. investigators have blamed on the Pakistani Taliban.But Pentagon officials have said they understood the Pakistani military was already stretched by operations in other tribal areas.(Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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