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US vows to take steps to mitigate threat of safe havens in Pak

Washington: The US and Pakistan appeared to be heading for renewed collision after a top American General blamed a bloody attack on a Kabul hotel on Pakistan-based Haqqani network and White House vowed to take "necessary steps" to mitigate the threat.

"Our concern about militants using Pakistan as a safe haven from which to launch attacks against our forces is well known," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters travelling with President Barack Obama on Air Force One, to Tampa.

"We`ll take steps necessary to mitigate that threat," the spokesman said in hard comments after US commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan General John Allen accused the Haqqani network of orchestrating a 12-hour siege on a lakeside hotel in Kabul that killed 18 people yesterday.

In a statement, Allen blamed the al-Qaeda-linked network just weeks after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan over its refusal to eliminate terror havens.

Earnest said Washington had raised the issue "both publicly and privately with the Pakistani government". We value our relationship with Pakistan and we`ll continue to find ways to work together to combat those terrorist groups that pose a threat both to the United States forces, but also to innocent Pakistani civilians, he said.

Asked if White House would send US soldiers across the borders in hot chase of these militants, Earnest said: "I won`t preview the kinds of things that are being discussed, and frankly, whether or not they`re even being discussed by the administration. But I can tell you that this is something – this threat is something that we have talked about quite extensively both publicly and privately."

The General`s statement said: "Afghan National Security Forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violate Afghan sovereignty from the safety of Pakistan."

"This is yet again a barbaric act perpetrated by the Haqqani network. And I would also note, as Gen Allen at ISAF did, that the (Afghan National Security Forces) responded effectively," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters yesterday.

The Haqqani network, based in Pakistan, is allied with the Taliban and it often targets Afghan and coalition troops in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said.

The US continues to press the Pakistanis to "take action on their side of the border to prevent the safe haven there from remaining a safe place for terrorists to operate," he said. "We would like for (Pakistanis) to do more. We`ve communicated that, and we`d like to cooperate with them in finding ways to pursue militants that threaten Afghans, threaten ISAF forces and threaten Pakistanis."

Little said in its talks with Pakistan, "the real focus is on trying to drive closer US-Pakistani cooperation to bring pressure to bear against the Haqqani network and other militants who operate along the Afghan-Pakistan border."

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the US is pressing Pakistan to squeeze the Haqqani network. "We certainly share that view, and as you know, we are in continual discussion with the Pakistani Government about our concerns about the operations of the Haqqani network and the need to squeeze them far harder than we are," she said.

"We`ve been making the point for a long time that we can do more, they can do more, we can do more together, and this is at the core of this work we`re trying to do to get past the differences we`ve had on counterterrorism so that we can really be maximizing our effectiveness together," Nuland added.

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