| GEO Pakistan|
| Mullen urges strict steps against LeT|
| Updated at: 0639 PST, Sunday, July 25, 2010|
ISLAMABAD: The United States sees the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) becoming more “lethal” by the day and thinks its gradual growth now clearly shows that it has global inspirations to spread terror.
“I have watched since 2008 the LeT move to the West, getting more active in the region and engaging more with other terrorist groups. It heightens our concern as it is not only confined to the region but has global inspirations,”
Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said while speaking to the media at the residence of US Ambassador Anne Patterson. He also sought strict steps by Pakistan against the LeT.
In Pakistan on his 19th visit, which is a record of sorts, this visit is being billed as part of the regular bilateral consultations between the US and Pakistan, where he met with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majid and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
“This time I managed to take a tour to the north and got to see as significant part of the country. The message I got was the degree of difficulty in this terrain in the north. We (Kayani) had discussions about Pakistan,” said Mullen, returning from a terrain where the admiral saw first hand, how wars can be won with the correct military strategy.
Mullen expressed apprehensions at the manner that the LeT was becoming more “lethal” in Afghanistan and other countries. He said this was not a new issue, and one that he raised with the leadership here.
“We all have to be concerned,” he said, showing greater diplomacy than when was in New Delhi where he told Times Now that “the US was putting extraordinary amount of pressure” on Pakistan to take action against LeT and other terror groups operating from its soil.
“I have seen the Pakistani leadership also recognise this and they are taking significant steps over the last couple of years to address that,” he said.
To a query, Mullen said it was not correct that the US acts only on intelligence that is provided by India.
“Our information and intelligence does not come from India specifically. We continue to focus heavily on our borders and we will continue to focus on closing safe havens which is a long way from depending on India,” he said.
The confusion in the overall US policy on Afghanistan and particularly regarding the Haqqani network is turning out to be more like a Greek tragedy.
When the question of the Haqqani network was put to him, Mullen did not strike out a possibility in the future of President Karzai talking to the Haqqani network, since reconciliation was an Afghan-led process. While stressing on a regional approach towards Afghanistan, Mullen said that reconciliation was a very important piece of process.
“The US position is that you can only be successful from a position of strength. We are not in a position of strength. The Haqqani network is very strong and involved in insurgency. We need to be stronger to reconcile with them. Karzai leads this and Pakistan too has stakes. It could be at a time when we are strong enough to open that reconciliation,” he explained.
Mullen shared these thoughts at a time when the US has said it wants Pakistan to implement UN curbs against three key financiers who raised money for the Taliban and Haqqani network, a day after slapping sanctions on the leaders of these outfits.
“Pakistan, as a UN member, must implement this international action,” the State Department said in a statement.
Mullen says that Pak-US relations though improving are not where they were when “we broke off”.
“We have had improved relations since 2002 and that is the reason I come back so many times. We still have a fair amount of work to do”, he said.
To a query, Mullen said the US had nothing to do with Kayani’s extension as “this was purely a political decision which a sovereign country makes”.
To another query, Mullen said there was no truth that there were secret US troops in Pakistan.
He was asked about a comment from Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, who said: “We have known that US forces have been operating in secret inside the territories of Pakistan without congressional approval.”
“The US troops presently in Pakistan are here for support and training purposes and there are certainly no secret troops. These troops are here at the request of the Pakistan government. We value our relationship with the Pakistan Army, Air Force and Navy,” said Mullen.
When asked to explain what he meant that he did not understand some of what the ISI was doing, Mullen was reluctant to get into details.
“There are some concerns as there are parts of ISI that I do not understand. I want to leave it at that,” he replied to a query. When asked if he had raised these issues that he did not “understand” with the ISI, Mullen refused to give further details.
“The military and the ISI have captured and killed more terrorists than anyone else in the world. They have worked well and I am aware of yow we share intelligence but again there are some parts of ISI, I do not understand,” he said.
Mullen insisted that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan but the US has not received good intelligence on him for several years now.
“One reason is that they hide well, exceptionally well, and they have extraordinary ways of staying alive. It is a complex problem but it is important that Osama is captured or killed. There is a degree of difficulty to execute this,” he said.