Sept. 26 - Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan says the Haqqani network could be a ''ticket'' to bringing Taliban to the negotiating table. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
A proposal from Pakistan. Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan told Reuters that he believes Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, still has connections with the Haqqani militant group, a chief driver of violence in eastern Afghanistan, but these connections could be put to good use. SOUNDBITE: Imran Khan, saying: (English): "I do not think that ISI controls the Haqqani network. Yes, they would have connections with them. And if I was the United States, I would use this connection of the ISI with the Haqqani network to actually get them on the negotiating table because what does US want now? An exit strategy, because people in the US have decided that they want the troops back - and this is according to all the polls. So, ISI should basically use whatever connections it has with the Haqqani network to get them upon the negotiating table, rather than what Americans are suggesting to take them on because then Pakistan loses all leverage." In stunningly blunt comments last week, the outgoing U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen called the Haqqani network a "veritable arm" of the ISI intelligence agency and accused Pakistan of providing support for the Sept. 13 attack on its Kabul mission. SOUNDBITE: Imran Khan, saying: (English): "Haqqani could be your ticket to probably a dialogue getting them (Taliban) on the negotiating table, which at the moment they are refusing. So I would think that's a much saner policy than to try and ask Pakistan to take them on," Pakistan's government and army rejected the allegations. Two weeks ago, militants launched an assault against the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul. U.S. officials blamed those attacks on the Haqqani network. Pakistan denies it supports the Haqqanis and says its army is too stretched battling its own Taliban insurgency to go after the network, which has an estimated 10,000-15,000 fighters. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters