With its safe havens inside Pakistan, the Haqqani network poses a threat to NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top NATO official has said.

“The Haqqani Network constitutes a threat both to the Afghan people and to our troops in Afghanistan,” NATO Secretary General, Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussles ahead of the NATO ministerial meeting later this week.

He said NATO was encouraging the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military to deal with safe havens in the border region.

Mr. Rasmussen said that there was a cross border traffic that makes possible for the Haqqani Network, and also other terrorist networks, to operate in Afghanistan.

“This constituting a clear threat to NATO troops and to the Afghan people. And then go back to safe havens in Pakistan,” he said in response to a question.

Expressing concerns he said it was common concerns and NATO needs a positive engagement of Pakistan to address this issue. “In general, we need a positive partnership with Pakistan.”

The Defence Ministers meeting of NATO countries later this week among other things would discuss Libya and Af-Pak, he said. U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta would also participate in the meeting.

Mr. Rasmussen said that they would also meet with their ISAF partners to discuss progress in Afghanistan, “because there has been significant progress since our last meeting.”

“Transition is fully on track, and we will not allow insurgents to derail it. Already Afghan forces are providing lead security for a quarter of the population. I expect the next stage of transition to be announced soon, and I expect it to be substantial. And at the same time, our military authorities assess that the insurgency has been weakened overall,” he said according to the transcripts made available here.

The NATO Secretary General said that the level of violence were of concern as a number of attacks have created the perception that security incidents were on the rise.

“However, our commanders are confident that security incidents initiated by insurgent groups are lower than last year. About a year ago, we were talking about the security situation in Central Helmand. This was focus of our efforts. And we said things would get worse before they got better,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

“We are seeing the results of our efforts. Attacks since June are significantly lower than last year. In fact, some districts in Central Helmand have seen reductions in violence of nearly 80 per cent,” he said, adding that the strategy was working. “We should concentrate on the competence of the Afghan Security Forces in dealing with attacks.”

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