Pentagon starts damage control
The Pentagon leadership has strongly denied reports that it has pressurised Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani to extend the military's anti-Taliban operations into North Waziristan, in the wake of the botched Times Square bombing attempt by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who received terror training in that region.
General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and US forces in Afghanistan, said, "There was an unfortunate news story that came out that was completely inaccurate that represented that I had expressed to General Kayani the US' policy on doing more, and that just didn't happen."
At a White House briefing, McChrystal said, "It was an one-on-one meeting, and it (pressure on Kayani) did not occur. And I made it clear to General Kayani that I did not represent it that way."
McChrytal asserted, "It is important that we understand that the insurgency faced by Pakistan, from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, is an essential threat. I mean, it's a significant threat to their countrymen, and it's complementary to what Afghanistan faces. So, it puts the two nations with a common problem."
Text: Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
Image: Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
'Pakistan has lost a lot of soldiers'
McChrysal acknowledged, "The Afghan Taliban and TTP are distinct, but they are not completely unrelated. And, therefore, it's important we sync our two campaigns together."
"And that's why I spend a lot of time with General Kayani, who is a good partner, working that," he added.
McChrysal said, "It's interesting that most people don't understand the scope of the Pakistani effort against the TTP. It's been large and it's been costly. They've lost a lot of soldiers in a significant campaign that's actually been waged very, very well."
"So, I think it's really good when we get a chance to understand the major effort that they've made," he said.
Image: A police checkpost in Peshawar that was attacked by a Taliban bomber
Photographs: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters
Clinton interview 'misunderstood'
At the Foreign Press Centre, US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke also echoed McChrystal's sentiments, and did some heavy duty spinning on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks in an interview to CBS, where she had warned Pakistan of 'consequences' if a terror attack on American soil was traced back to Pakistan.
Holbrooke claimed that there were 'misunderstandings' about the Clinton interview.
He declared, "The Pakistani army has taken some very courageous actions in Swat and South Waziristan. There is a lot left to be done, but I am not here to criticise the government, but to thank it for what it's done."
Holbrooke said, "As for Secretary Clinton's interview in 60 Minutes, I think that perhaps it was not fully understood by some people, who didn't see the full text or didn't appreciate what she was saying."
Image: Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke
Photographs: Antony Njuguna/Reuters
'We are concerned about any attacks on US'
"And, in this regard, she herself praised the Pakistani government for what it's done. And, so I urge you not to react to misinterpretation of what she said, although I think that happens from time to time," he added.
In her interview, Clinton had said, "Heaven forbid that an attack like this (the Times Square plot) that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very serious consequences."
When asked exactly what she meant by that, Clinton said, "I think I'll let that speak for itself."
Reacting cautiously to Clinton's statement, Holbrroke said, "We are concerned about any attacks on the United States or threatened attacks. And the man (Shahzad) in question has talked about his travels to Pakistan."
'We have discussed this at the appropriate levels with our friends in Pakistan, and we will continue to do so. And, we're working very closely with the Pakistani authorities on these issues," he added
Image: Pakistani soldiers keep guard in Mingora, Swat
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters