By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today in expressing unhappiness with Pakistan’s progress in battling the Haqqani network’s use of safe havens in Pakistan.
Pakistan is working to battle other threats within the federally administered tribal area, or FATA, Dempsey told reporters.
“Although we are extraordinarily dissatisfied with the effect that Pakistan has had on the Haqqani [network], we are also mindful that they are conducting military operations, at great loss … elsewhere,” Dempsey said.
During a news conference earlier today in Kabul, Panetta said the United States was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan following an attack on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province, Afghanistan, earlier this week. One contractor and dozens of service members were wounded in the attack, attributed to the Haqqani network.
Regional Command East, which includes Khost and Logar provinces, has seen an uptick in activity, largely due increased activity by the Haqqani network, Dempsey said.
A report of civilian deaths following an airstrike in Afghanistan’s Logar province is under investigation, Dempsey said. The strike followed a call for assistance from troops who came in contact with the enemy.
Dempsey said two wounded civilians came forward immediately following the airstrike saying they were wounded by the attack. U.S. troops who searched the area found no other injured or dead, he added, but an Afghan provincial leader said further searches found civilian casualties.
“We do our very best to avoid civilian casualties,” Dempsey said. “This investigation will try to determine if there were civilian casualties and then we will take the appropriate actions.”
The Haqqani network is as big a threat to Pakistan as it is to Afghanistan and the United States, Dempsey said. He added that the U.S. will continue to work with Pakistan to find common ground on ways to deal with the cross-border threat posed by the Haqqani network and other groups.
In addition to the recent activity by the Haqqani network, Dempsey said al-Qaida remains a threat in Pakistan, particularly within the FATA, and to a lesser extent within Afghanistan. Coalition efforts have been very successful in eliminating al-Qaida leaders, though others continue to take their place, he added.
Dempsey cited the June 4 death of Abu Yahya Al-Libi, al-Qaida's second in command, as an example of those successes, calling it a significant loss for the terror group.
“He had longstanding credibility and he had operational skills that are tough to grow overnight, and so that will be something that affects … the al-Qaida network globally, not just in south Asia,” Dempsey said.
“Most of those who 10 years ago we began tracking are no longer a part of al-Qaida, they’re no longer part of any organization,” Dempsey said. “We are at war with al-Qaida and … we will pursue them wherever we find them,” he said.