Reinforcing her reputation for issuing sharp rebukes, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar struck a defiant note in a war of words against the United States when she described the dangerous Haqqani network terror group as the “blue-eyed boy” of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Her comments, made to a news channel here in New York City on the margins of the recent United Nations General Assembly, came in the wake of an unprecedented exchange between the two countries following allegations that the Haqqani network was “a veritable arm of” the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.
That remark, made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen last week, led to stark warnings by Ms. Khar that the U.S. had to face the risk that it could “lose an ally” in the fight against extremism if it levelled such allegations against the Pakistani spy agency.
However, the Obama administration refused to back down following the Pakistani response and, instead, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby retorted that there was credible evidence regarding at least two attacks in September, which showed that “the ISI continues to support and even encourages the Haqqanis to launch... attacks.”
Ms. Khar however lashed out on the role of the CIA, which most recently orchestrated the covert strike against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. She said to Al Jazeera channel, “If we talk about links, I am sure the CIA also has links with many terrorist organisations around the world, by which we mean intelligence links.
In a remark that raised eyebrows in both New York and Washington Ms. Khar added, “And this particular network, which the U.S. continues to talk about, is a network which was the blue-eyed boy of the CIA itself for many years.”
Amidst signs that the overall bilateral relationship appears to be fraying and possibly on the cusp of a tectonic shift with heightened tensions, she however held out an olive branch.
“I just hope that we will be given a chance to cooperate with each other and the doors will remain open,” Ms. Khar said, adding that “statements like this are pretty much close to shutting those doors”.
Yet that statement too came with a veiled hint that there were limits to Pakistan’s patience with the U.S. “I think we must not be tested more than we have the ability to bear,” Ms. Khar cautioned.