A senior U.S. senator urged Pakistan on Sunday to crack down on the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani insurgent network, which operates on both sides of the country's border with Afghanistan.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he does not think the Haqqani network will ever make peace and he vowed to push to include the group on the U.S. terrorist blacklist.
The senator praised Pakistan for its help in fighting terrorism and for taking on other militants such as the Pakistan Taliban, but he said the country's reluctance to push into the North Waziristan area run by the Haqqanis is hurting the war effort in Afghanistan.
"They are not following through and have not followed through by going after one of the truly great threats that face us here in Afghanistan, which is the coming into Afghanistan from Pakistan of Haqqani fighters," the Democrat from Michigan told reporters in Kabul at the end of his two-day visit.
The Haqqani network, which mainly focuses on attacking targets in Afghanistan, is suspected of maintaining ties to Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency.
The Pakistani government has denied news reports that it has reached out to the Haqqani network to secure its participation in talks with the Afghan government.
Levin was also recently in Islamabad meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who said in a statement later that his government was doing its utmost to combat militance. Gilani said he expected friendly countries like the U.S. to share credible, actionable information rather than indulging in a blame game.
Pakistan is a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants, providing intelligence that is said to have helped kill and capture many al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. Yet, skeptics suspect that the country's military, which once supported the Taliban's extremist rule over Afghanistan, sees keeping ties with various Muslim militias as an insurance policy and a way to keep influence in its neighbor.
The Haqqani movement is led by veteran fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani, a legendary commander in the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviets. Now, he and his son Sirajuddin command hundreds of fighters blamed for some of the most audacious attacks in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan.
Their network is based in the North Waziristan tribal area along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, where they are said to host al-Qaida operatives.
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