Mullen’s unannounced visit fuels speculation

Mullen’s unannounced visit fuels speculation
The News, July 13, 2008
By Qudssia Akhlaque

ISLAMABAD: US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who arrived here on an announced visit on Saturday, held back-to-back meetings with the top Pakistani political and military leadership to share evidence of the American claims that responsible elements within the country's security agencies were giving comprehensive support to Taliban and al-Qaeda elements.

His short but crucial visit coincided with reports that large-scale military attacks by the Nato-led coalition forces in the country's tribal areas were imminent. Notably, Mullen arrived here following his announcement he made in Kabul that Pakistan's tribal areas had become a safe haven for "militants and extremists" and that the US had prepared a strategy for dealing with the alarming situation.

Mullen was accompanied by key CIA officials who were also present in the meetings he held separately with the Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Director-General Military Operations Lt. Gen. Pasha.

According to sources privy to the meetings, the evidence given by the Americans was "non-specific" and it was refuted by the government team, using specific facts. Apparently, the Americans were quite aggressive in their claims.

Mullen also met some members of the mini-Jirga Commission. As of now, the Jirga members include ANP leaders Afsandyar Wali Khan, Afrasiab Khattak and chief of PKMAP Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

During Mullen's hour-long meeting with the prime minister, Rehman Malik, adviser to the PM on Interior, also participated in the talks.

General Kayani, in his meeting with Mullen, reportedly reiterated Pakistan's deep concern over the US attack on Pakistani posts in Mohmand area on the Pak-Afghan border, which killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops.

The Mullen visit, which was kept under wraps by the government, was finalised a week back, according to informed sources. While the Americans apparently leaked the information about his visit, the government remained tight-lipped about it and there was no word even from the ISPR.

The unnecessary 'silence' on the part of Pakistani government is likely to fuel speculations about the nature of the visit.

Mullen arrived here at a time when the American Press has been reflecting the US official position that Pakistan is failing to tackle the growing problem of militancy.

In fact, recent international media reports have claimed that American intelligence agencies have evidence that individuals belonging to Pakistani security agencies have been providing serious levels of support to the Taliban and members of al-Qaeda. This assertion, although not new, has acquired significance against the backdrop of increased attacks by the US-led coalition forces in Pakistan's tribal territory.

Also See:
Clashes Erupt in Pakistan's NW; Adm. Mullen Makes Surprise Visit - Washington Post
Border violations not acceptable, Kayani tells Mullen - DT
Mullen on mysterious visit to Islamabad - The News
Mullen to ‘read the riot act’ to Pakistan - DT

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