ISLAMABAD - U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Sunday sought greater action from Pakistan's civil and military leaders for targeting militant groups, notably members of the hardline Haqqani network during a day-long visit to the south Asian country.
Pakistan and the U.S. have remained allies against Islamic militants since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but differences have remained between the two sides on security matters, including U.S. objections to Pakistan's alleged ties with militants belonging to the Haqqani network. In the past, Western officials have told CBS News that militants from the Haqqani network use safe sanctuaries on Pakistan's territory to organize their attacks in Afghanistan.
The group takes its name from Jalaluddin Haqqani, a legendary Afghan warlord in the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s who was recently reported to have died. His son Sirajuddin now leads the group, along with a corps of battle hardened militants with the main objective of continuing to fight the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan.
In recent months, U.S. and Afghan officials have nervously noted increasingly brutal terrorist attacks in Afghanistan including Kabul, the capital, later traced to the Haqqani network. On Sunday, a senior U.S. official told a group of journalists that Rice urged Pakistani leaders to take tougher action against militants like the Haqqani network to help curb violence in the region.
"We understand a series of recent deadly attacks were perpetrated by the Haqqani network," said the senior U.S. official, who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity. "Just as we have worked together to counter groups of common concern, Ambassador Rice also noted that terrorist and militant attacks, which has developed into a key point of regional friction. Addressing this challenge will be imperative for Pakistan's relations with its neighbors and with Washington, especially given the recent upsurge in violence in Kabul and the Taliban's bloody campaign this fighting season in Afghanistan."
Rice also delivered an invitation on behalf of the U.S. government to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, to meet President Obama at the White house in October. In spite of U.S. concerns over the Haqqani network, a Pakistani foreign ministry official who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said: "Prime Minister Sharif's visit to the White House suggests that the U.S. still values its alliance with Pakistan in spite of some disagreements."
Analysts warned it was still too early to know how soon the two sides can overcome disagreements over militant activity in Afghanistan. Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani commentator on defense and security affairs, told CBS News there were limits to how far Pakistan could go in seeking to eliminate a group like the Haqqani network in the short term.
"The Pakistan army is fighting Pakistani Taliban groups who have used safe locations inside Afghanistan to attack Pakistan. It's a big undertaking which requires time and effort before it can be achieved" said Rizvi. "Stepping up attacks on the Haqqani network may take some more time."