Pakistani officials warned Friday they could jettison the United States as an ally if American officials continue to accuse Islamabad's intelligence agency of assisting a leading Afghan Taliban group in recent attacks in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar cautioned the United States against airing allegations such as the blunt charge of collusion between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the militant Haqqani network made Thursday by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," Khar said, speaking to a Pakistani television channel in New York.
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in a statement called Mullen's remarks "very unfortunate and not based on facts."
Pakistani officials continued to tersely reject the allegations.
Mullen called the Haqqani group "a veritable arm of the ISI," and said the agency helped Haqqani militants during attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul Sept. 13 as well as a truck bomb blast in Wardak province two days earlier that injured 77 American troops.
U.S. military officers and former officials say Pakistan's intelligence agency communicated with Afghan insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters and appear to have provided them with equipment.
Estimated to number more than 10,000 fighters, the Haqqani network uses Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region along the Afghan border from which to launch suicide bombings, commando-style assaults and other terror strikes on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan and in the capital, Kabul. The group has never carried out any attacks against targets inside Pakistan. The country's links with the Haqqani group date back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the ISI backed the group's founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and other resistance fighters.