U.S. Reaching Limit of Patience With Pakistan on Safe Havens

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 7, 2012 — The Unit­ed States is reach­ing the lim­its of its patience with Pak­istan serv­ing as a safe haven for ter­ror­ists attack­ing Amer­i­can forces in Afghanistan, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said here today.

“We are reach­ing the lim­its of our patience, and for that rea­son it is extreme­ly impor­tant that Pak­istan take action to pre­vent this kind of safe haven,” the sec­re­tary said.

Panet­ta was par­tic­u­lar­ly incensed about the Haqqani net­work using the Fed­er­al­ly Admin­is­tered Trib­al Area in Pak­istan as a safe haven. The Haqqa­nis most recent out­rage was an attack on For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Saler­no in Region­al Com­mand-East. The attack on June 1 killed an Amer­i­can con­trac­tor and wound­ed dozens of ser­vice mem­bers.

Panet­ta spoke dur­ing a news con­fer­ence with Afghan Defense Min­is­ter Abdul Rahim War­dak in the Chai House on the grounds of the Defense Min­istry.

The sec­re­tary said he will con­tin­ue to push the Pak­ista­nis to deal with the Haqqani net­work. “We will con­tin­ue to make it clear that it is an intol­er­a­ble sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “We will take what­ev­er steps nec­es­sary to pro­tect our forces — that’s a prin­ci­ple that we always stand by. To make that hap­pen we have to have the coop­er­a­tion of Pak­istan to take steps to con­trol the Haqqani threat on their side of the bor­der.”

While there has been an uptick in attacks inside Afghanistan, the lev­el of vio­lence is low­er than in the past, offi­cials said. The sec­re­tary not­ed that there have been dif­fi­cult chal­lenges, set­backs and heart­break. But “there is no deny­ing the fact that we have moved clos­er to achiev­ing our objec­tives” he said.

Both Panet­ta and War­dak said the Tal­iban has lost the momen­tum, and that Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force ser­vice mem­bers and Afghan forces have main­tained pres­sure on the Tal­iban, deny­ing them the abil­i­ty to regain lost ter­ri­to­ry.

The Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are increas­ing in qual­i­ty as well as size — up to 352,000 short­ly — and they are increas­ing­ly in the lead, offi­cials said.

“Every day, they are improv­ing their capa­bil­i­ty to secure the areas they are assigned,” Panet­ta said.

Afghan forces already pro­vide secu­ri­ty for more than 50 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, said offi­cials, not­ing this will increase to 75 per­cent this year. Afghans will be in the lead in all areas by the mid­dle of next year. This will enable U.S. and oth­er coali­tion forces to evolve from con­ven­tion­al for­ma­tions to advi­so­ry teams. All ISAF com­bat troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

But the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty will not just let Afghanistan sink or swim. The recent NATO Sum­mit in Chica­go, Panet­ta said, sends a strong sig­nal “that we have an endur­ing com­mit­ment to the secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty of Afghanistan and that we will sup­port the ANSF not just now but over the long term.”

Panet­ta hopes the Tal­iban hears this loud and clear. “The resolve of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to stand with Afghanistan sends a very strong mes­sage to the Tal­iban that we are com­mit­ted to the long term in Afghanistan, we’re not going any­where and that time not on their side,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)