Since Barack Obama’s inauguration, officials have insisted that Pakistan is “a partner” of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.

That’s why we find it so dramatic and troubling that Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, according to his prepared testimony, that the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s supreme military and political command, and the Haqqani Network “operate from Pakistan with impunity. Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers. For example, we believe the Haqqani Network -- which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency -- is responsible for the Sept. 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attacks against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the Sept. 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were U.S. soldiers.”

He went on to declare that, “The actions by the Pakistani government to support them -- actively and passively --represent a growing problem that is undermining U.S. interests and may violate international norms, potentially warranting sanction.”

We note that Mullen is the Obama administration official who has spent the most time with Pakistan’s de-facto ruler, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of army staff.

Mullen is now charging that the Taliban and the Haqqani Network are not only supported by the Pakistani government (as was said previously), but also that they are its proxies. If true, this raises a series of profound questions about the provision of U.S. military and economic assistance to Pakistan, the overall relationship between the two countries, and the U.S. ability to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. We would expect that in the coming days explanations are provided regarding this new assessment, its significance and to what extent it will provoke changes in the U.S. approach to the region.

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