ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan on Saturday rejected U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent comments on militant safe havens in Pakistan, a move that could intensify tensions between troubled allies Islamabad and Washington.
“We feel that the Secretary of Defense is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are all dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region.”
Panetta said on Thursday during a trip to Afghanistan that stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan would remain difficult as long as militants had safe havens in Pakistan.
“It is very important for Pakistan to take steps. It is an increasing concern, the issue of safe haven, and we are reaching the limits of our patience,” he said, using some of the strongest language from a senior U.S. official on Washington’s strained relations with Islamabad.
U.S. officials often describe Pakistan as an unreliable partner in the war on militancy and demand tougher action against militant groups, especially those based in Pakistan’s volatile tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan.
The United States wants Pakistan to go after the Haqqani group, which is close to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, and is blamed for some of the deadliest attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has repeatedly said that it will not allow its territory to be used against any country, nor will it allow any safe havens on its territory,” the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, adding that Islamabad will “follow its own timeline” and strategy on operations against militants.
Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Daniel Magnowski