Washington: The unusual decision of Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to send a blunt message to Pakistan reflects that bilateral relations are in trouble and likely to deteriorate further, an influential American think tank has said.
In a blunt statement, Mullen identified the Haqqani network as "a strategic arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency," which thereby made the spy agency complicit in the September 13 attacks against the US Embassy in Kabul, the June 28 attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul.
"When Mullen, the foremost US defender of maintaining sound working ties with Pakistan's military, expresses this much exasperation, those who seek to retain decent bilateral relations are in trouble. Ties have become extremely tenuous
and are likely to deteriorate further," said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank.
"By publicly confirming and not qualifying reality, Mullen has changed the rules of the game, while laying the predicate for US military actions against the sanctuary within Pakistan that the Haqqani network enjoys," he said.
This will embarrass Pakistan's military hierarchy and further inflame anti-US opinion within Pakistan, the two consequences that are not unrelated, he said.
"Why would Mullen speak out now? The answer in Pakistan is that Washington needs a scapegoat for a military campaign in Afghanistan that is unlikely to end well," Krepon noted.
"This answer conveniently absolves Pakistan's security establishment of responsibility for this mess. There's another answer: the Haqqani network has raised the stakes and the Obama administration has concluded that it has been unable to influence Rawalpindi's unfortunate choices," he said.
Krepon warned that unless Rawalpindi changes course, Pakistan may find itself reframed from a major non-NATO ally to a state sponsor of terrorism.