Pakistani army rejects claim of Taliban links
THE Pakistani army has rejected what it called "negative propaganda" by the United States, after the top U.S. military officer accused the country's spy agency of continued links to a powerful Afghan Taliban faction.
The unusually strident exchange reflected the poor state of relations between the two counterterrorism allies, which sunk to new lows after an American CIA contractor in January shot and killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him.
While officials from both nations have raised the level of rhetoric, they have also spoken of the need to keep the partnership intact.
Washington needs Pakistani support, even if not as whole hearted as it would like, to be able to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this summer, while Islamabad relies heavily on U.S civilian and military aid.
Admiral. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said earlier this week that he would bring up the issue of Pakistan's ties to the militant Haqqani network when he saw Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani later the same day in Islamabad.
The Haqqani network is a largely independent Afghan Taliban faction with bases in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region just across the border from Afghanistan. It is considered one of the most lethal forces battling U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's military-run Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has links to the network's leaders that date back to the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when the group was also supported by Washington. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pakistan has insisted it has cut those ties.
However, many analysts and U.S. officials suspect Pakistan may be trying to maintain its links to the Haqqanis so that it can use them as a means of retaining influence in Afghanistan - and keeping a bulwark against archrival India - after the Americans leave.
"The ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network, that doesn't mean everybody in the ISI but it's there ... I believe over time that has got to change," Adm Mullen said.
In a statement issued after he saw Mullen, Kayani did not mention the Haqqanis, and said both sides were determined to keep their relationship intact.
The statement said Kayani told Mullen that he "strongly rejects negative propaganda (about) Pakistan not doing enough".
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