US targeting Haqqani network in Pakistan
Weapons seized from a Haqqani network camp in Afghanistan (ISAF photo)
September 21st, 2011
03:58 PM ET

US targeting Haqqani network in Pakistan

By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military have stepped up unilateral strikes against the Haqqani network over the past year, a senior U.S. official has confirmed to CNN.

The news follows public comments by top U.S. officials this week voicing frustration with Pakistan's lack of action against the terror network.

The senior official said the CIA and the U.S. military agreed last year to increase targeting of the Haqqani terrorist network inside Pakistan after Haqqani-backed insurgents stepped up their attacks across the border inside Afghanistan against U.S. troops and Afghan targets.

The Pentagon asked the CIA to step in last year and as a result, at one point in 2010, 20% of armed CIA drone attacks in Pakistan were aimed at Haqqani targets, the official said.

"A deliberate decision was made to start ramping up targeting the Haqqanis in 2010," he said. CIA drone attacks are specifically aimed at al Qaeda and their "militant allies," which has long allowed for groups like the Haqqanis and the Pakistani Taliban to be targeted.

The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. He pointed out that the drone operations amount to unilateral U.S. action against the Haqqanis inside Pakistan, even as U.S. military forces have increasingly targeted Haqqanis inside Afghanistan.

But how successful either operations have been remains a question in light of the Haqqanis' continuing ability to stage high-profile attacks.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stepped up the effort to get the Pakistani government to crack down on Haqqani network, saying, "Our biggest concern right now is to put as much pressure as possible on the Pakistanis to exercise control from their side of the border. We've continued to state that this cannot happen. We cannot have the Haqqanis coming across the border attacking our forces, attacking (Afghans), and then disappearing back into a safe haven. That is not tolerable and we have urged them to take steps."

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also stepped up the pressure in recent days. In a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart this past weekend, he told Gen. Ashfaq Kayani that the Islamabad government should stop sheltering the Haqqanis. Mullen and others have said the United States believes elements of the Pakistani intelligence service are supporting Haqqani attacks.

Mullen was equally blunt on Tuesday when he publicly called on Pakistan to do more to rein in the Haqqani network.

"The Haqqani piece of this has got to be reversed, period," he said in a speech in Washington. He added that the ISI, the Pakistan intelligence service, has to stop what he called its long practice of funding extremist groups.

"The ISI has been doing this, supporting proxies, for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future," Mullen said.

The official said Panetta is not signaling that U.S. troops will move against the Haqqanis inside Pakistan. "No decision has been made on that, but all options are on the table always," he said.

CIA Director David Petraeus met with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, on Tuesday in Washington and, among other things, discussed the Haqqani network.

The United States has been trying to mend the relationship with Pakistan that fell apart after the U.S. conducted a raid inside the country that killed Osama bin Laden without informing the Pakistani government. A few months earlier an American intelligence contractor was jailed for shooting two Pakistanis. That incident led to the United States removing military trainers and intelligence officials, at the request of the Pakistanis.

The senior U.S. official said the United States and Pakistan have reached an agreement allowing a small number of U.S. troops back into Pakistan.

After the raid killing bin Laden, much of that effort had been halted. But now up to 150 U.S. forces will be allowed into Pakistan at any one time to work on various military support and training operations.

That is about half the contingent allowed under previous agreements. But only 10 special forces troops at a time will be allowed into Pakistan to conduct what the United States sees as high-priority training with the Pakistan Frontier Corps units.

The official said the Pakistan's clearly see any U.S. military troops in the border region as highly "sensitive"

Pam Benson and Charley Keyes contributed to this report.

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