ISLAMABAD - Pakistan lashed out at the U.S. for accusing the country's most powerful intelligence agency of supporting extremist attacks against American targets in Afghanistan the most serious allegations against Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar dismissed the claims as mere allegations. She warned the U.S. that it risked losing Pakistan as an ally and could not afford to alienate the Pakistani government or its people.
"If they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost," Khar told Geo TV on Thursday from New York City, where she is attending a U.N. General Assembly meeting. "Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it is not acceptable."
Khar's comments were first aired in Pakistan on Friday.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani responded to the U.S. criticism by saying Washington was in a tough spot.
"They can't live with us. They can't live without us," Gilani told reporters Friday in the southern city of Karachi. "So, I would say to them that if they can't live without us, they should increase contacts with us to remove misunderstandings."
The Pakistani officials were responding to congressional testimony by the top U.S. military officer about Pakistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency Thursday of supporting the Haqqani insurgent network in planning and executing the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan last week and a truck bomb that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier.
He also said the U.S. had credible information that Haqqani extremists, with help from the ISI, were responsible for the June 28 attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and other small but effective assaults.
Even more damning, if confirmed, is a Thursday report in The Guardian which claims the top U.S. NATO commander in the region specifically asked Pakistan's army chief to stop the truck bomb attack on the American base, which U.S. intelligence agencies saw coming.
According to the report, which cites no sources for the information, General Ashfaq Kayani told General John Allen on Sept. 8 he would "make a phone call" in response to the U.S. intelligence pointing to a truck bomb plot in the works.
Two days later, the bomber struck, indicating that Pakistan's army was either unable or unwilling to intervene - if the conversation detailed by The Guardian took place as stated.
Pakistani officials in Islamabad denied the report to CBS News' Farhan Bokhari on Friday. A source close to President Asif Ali Zardari told Bokhari the bombing alone was unlikely to have provoked the new, hard line coming from Washington towards Islamabad.
"I think the Americans have taken a step back and decided to raise the ante significantly," said the source. "There is no single provocation here."
The Haqqani insurgent network is widely believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border. The group has historical ties to Pakistani intelligence, dating back to the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The U.S. military has said the Haqqani network, which has ties to both al Qaeda and the Taliban, poses the greatest threat to American troops in Afghanistan.
Mullen insisted that the Haqqani insurgent network "acts as a veritable arm" of the ISI, undermining the uneasy U.S.-Pakistan relationship forged in the terror fight and endangering American troops in the almost 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is "exporting violence" and threatening any success in Afghanistan, Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.