The nation's highest-ranking military officer has tied Pakistan's powerful military spy agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to the Sept. 13 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul by Afghan militants.
In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen accused the ISI of having ties to the Haqqani insurgent network, a key faction of the Afghan Taliban that has ties to al-Qaida and operates out of the lawless tribal belt in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
"With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy. We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations," Mullen said.
"The Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency," he added.
Haqqani operatives have carried out several high-profile attacks in Afghanistan including a truck bomb attack on a NATO military base that killed at least five people and injured 77 soldiers, as well as a coordinated attack on the U.S. Embassy and the NATO force headquarters in Kabul that killed at least seven Afghans.
Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani dismissed Mullen's accusations of ISI complicity in U.S. embassy attack in Kabul, describing the allegations as "very unfortunate and not based on facts."
Kayani suggested that Pakistan's communications with the Haqqani network were in large part because of efforts to negotiate a peace deal with insurgents in the region.
"On the specific question of contacts with the Haqqanis … Admiral Mullen knows fully well which … countries are in contact with the Haqqanis. Singling out Pakistan is neither fair nor productive," Kayani said.
In response to Mullen's remarks, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani underscored Washington's and Islamabad's mutual need for each other.
"They can't live with us. They can't live without us," Gilani said. So, I would say to them that if they can't live without us, they should increase contacts with us to remove misunderstandings."
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have seen a steady decline following the May 2 raid by Navy SEALS on Osama bin Laden's walled off compound in the Pakistani military city of Abbottabad. American officials alleged Pakistani complicity in bin Laden's hiding and openly questioned how the al-Qaida leader was living in Pakistan for more than five years without the knowledge of authorities. Drone strikes that have targeted senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan in recent months have been another deterrent in relations.