Speaking in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday that the United States is not possessed of limitless patience, and Pakistan is reaching our limit.
“It is difficult to achieve peace in Afghanistan as long as there is safe haven for terrorists in Pakistan. It is very important for Pakistan to take steps. It is an increasing concern, the safe haven [for terrorists] and we are reaching the limit of our patience. It is an increasing concern that safe havens exist and those like the Haqqanis make use of that to attack our forces. We are reaching the limits of our patience for that reason. It is extremely important for Pakistan to take action to prevent the Haqqanis safe havens, and for terrorists to use their country as a safety net to conduct attacks on our forces,” Panetta said in Kabul after holding meetings with military leaders there.
Pakistan has long provided a place for the Taliban to hide out, for al Qaida members to retreat for safety from the allied forces seeking them. The United States has pushed Pakistan to be a full partner in the war on terror, and hunt down the Taliban and al Qaida within their borders. Former president Pervez Musharaf tried to negotiate with the Taliban in the region bordering Afghanistan, reasoning that it was better to make peace with them than waste years and resources trying to wipe them out, particularly since ancient rules of kinship and hospitality made it virtually impossible to root them out. The United States rejected his reasoning and attempts. Relations with Pakistan have deteriorated since then, with the killing of Osama bin Laden just blocks away from the Pakistani miltary academy and drone strikes on al Qaida hideouts from our side and the blocking of land routes to Afghanistan and attacks on NATO forces from terrorist boltholes on theirs.
Congress has tied foreign aid to Pakistan to the opening of the supply routes, amidst calls from multiple Congresspersons to end aid all together. Congress is also calling for Pakistan to release the doctor whose work was crucial to locating bin Laden so he could be killed in a surgical strike that had no civilian casualties. Panetta had arrived in Kabul from meetings in New Delhi, India, where he was urging greater involvement in Afghanistan by the Indians. NATO has entered into agreements with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for land routes for military supplies as we prepare to leave the country.
The situation with Pakistan is complicated by elections, ours this year and the Pakistanis next year. No candidate in either country can be perceived to be soft on the other country. It makes negotiations difficult.