It was a 1500-pound truck bomb that left a 20 foot crater. For all the suicide bomber’s trouble, no Americans were seriously wounded; all were expected to return to duty. The attack did kill 2 Afghans and wound 25 others, but there is scant outrage from Islamabad as long as the attacks are directed out of Pakistan and not into it, and as long as the victims are Americans, Christians, Ahmadis, Shi’ites, or over the border in Afghanistan.
But the state of affairs appears to be going downhill fast, as allegation after damning allegation piles up regarding the involvement of the Haqqani network jihadists in a series of high-profile attacks, reportedly urged on by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence. “US bomb warning to Pakistan ignored,” by Declan Walsh and Jon Boone for the Guardian, September 22:
The American commander of Nato in Afghanistan personally asked Pakistan’s army chief to halt an insurgent truck bomb that was heading for his troops, during a meeting in Islamabad two days before a huge explosion that wounded 77 US soldiers at a base near Kabul.
In reply General Ashfaq Kayani offered to “make a phone call” to stop the assault on the US base in Wardak province. But his failure to use the American intelligence to prevent the attack has fuelled a blazing row between the US and Pakistan.
Furious American officials blame the Taliban-inspired group the Haqqanis — and, by extension, Pakistani intelligence — for the 10 September bombing and an even more audacious guerrilla assault on the Kabul US embassy three days later that killed 20 people and lasted more than 20 hours.
On Thursday the US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, described the Haqqanis as “a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [spy] agency”. He earlier accused the ISI of fighting a “proxy war” in Afghanistan through the group.
Pakistan’s defence minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, rejected the American accusations of Haqqani patronage as “baseless”. “No one can threaten Pakistan as we are an independent state,” he said.
The angry accusations lift the veil on sensitive conversations that have heretofore largely taken place behind closed doors. On 8 September, General John Allen, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, raised intelligence reports of the impending truck bomb at a meeting with Kayani during a visit to Islamabad.
Kayani promised Allen he would “make a phone call” to try to stop the attack, according to a western official with close knowledge of the meeting. “The offer raised eyebrows,” the official said.
But two days later, just after Allen’s return to Kabul, a truck rigged with explosives ploughed into the gates of the US base in Wardak, 50 miles south-west of Kabul, injuring 77 US soldiers and killing two Afghan civilians.
Afterwards the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, blamed the Haqqanis. “They enjoy safe havens in North Waziristan,” he said, referring to the Haqqani main base in the tribal belt.
Allen’s spokesman said Nato “routinely shares intelligence with the Pakistanis regarding insurgent activities” but he refused to confirm the details of the conversation with Kayani.
The Pakistani military spokesman, General Athar Abbas, said: “Let’s suppose it was the case. The main question is how did this truck travel to Wardak and explode without being checked by Nato? This is just a blame game.”
US allegations of ISI links to Haqqani attacks stretch back to July 2008, when the CIA deputy director, Stephen Kappes, flew to Islamabad with intercept evidence that linked the ISI to an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
But American disquiet has never been so uncompromisingly expressed as in recent days. The issue dominated three hours of talks between the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar.
On Tuesday Mullen said he had asked Kayani to “disconnect” the ISI from the Haqqanis. In Washington the CIA chief, David Petraeus, delivered a similar message in private to the ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha. Even the soft-spoken US ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, has joined the chorus of condemnation, delivering a hard-hitting message through an interview on Pakistani state radio.
“We’ve changed our message in private too,” one US official said. “Before, we used to make polite demands about the Haqqanis. Now we are saying ‘this has to stop’.”…