Mullen sticks to his guns on ISI links with terror group

September 29th, 2011 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, Sep 29 (IANS) The top US military officer stuck to his guns even as the White House and State Department sought to distance themselves from his remarks that Haqqani network was “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy agency.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN Wednesday that elements in Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were “very active” with the Haqqani network launching attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

Mullen’s remarks to the US Congress last week for the first time directly linking ISI with the militant group blamed for the attack on the US embassy in Kabul caused a diplomatic furore with Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders, who have denied the a accusation.

Meanwhile, the White House Wednesday distanced itself from the retiring officer’s statement. Asked whether he agreed with Mullen that the Haqqani network was “a veritable arm” of the ISI, Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters, “It’s not language I would use.”

But the Obama administration, he said, is united in its assessment that “links” exist between the Haqqani network and the ISI, “and that Pakistan needs to take action to address that.”

At the State Department too asked whether it stood behind Mullen’s testimony, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said: “We stand behind his conclusion that this safe haven is extremely dangerous, that we must work on it together. Admiral Mullen also made the point that we have no choice, the US and Pakistan, but to tackle this together.”

Asked how the State Department would define the relationship between ISI and the Haqqani Network, she parried: “Again, that’s not an issue for this Department. That’s an intelligence question.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that an unidentified Pentagon official said Mullen had overstated the ISI link to Congress.

Asked by CNN if he overstated the situation to Congress, Mullen repeated that a link exists but referred to elements in the spy network as opposed to some kind of formal structure.

“There are elements I think of the ISI very active with Haqqani,” Mullen said, adding that “the piece” of the ISI “that is so focused on sending Taliban and insurgents into Afghanistan” from safe havens in Pakistan must be addressed by both the US and Pakistan’s government and military.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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