WASHINGTON: Calling the Taliban-linked Haqqani network a "common enemy", the US has made it clear to Pakistan that both countries have to work together to deal with the dreaded terror outfit responsible for attacks on coalition forces based in Afghanistan.
Stating this, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Pakistan too has been a victim of terrorism and cited the recent killing of 17 Pakistani soldiers by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
"They lost 17 Pakistanis on a patrol to the TTP. And so every day they too are the victims of terrorism," he noted.
"So we have a common enemy. It would make sense if we could work together to confront that common enemy," Panetta told reporters at Pentagon yesterday, responding to a question on the Haqqani network.
It is in the interest of Islamabad as well to take action against the Haqqani network, he said.
"I think he (General John Allen, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan) got a receptivity from (Pakistan army chief) General (Ashfaq Pervez) Kayani that he understood the concern," he said.
On closure of the NATO supply routes by Pakistan, Panetta said the US continues to have discussions with Islamabad on reopening of the ground lines of communication (GLOCs).
"There continue to be discussions in this area. We continue to have a line of communications with the Pakistanis to try to see if we can take steps to reopen the GLOCs. And you know, the good news is that there continue to be those discussions," Panetta said.
"There still are some tough issues to try to resolve. But, you know, I think the important thing right now is that both sides, in good faith, keep working to see if we can resolve this," he said.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the US are working on a "package deal" that will cover key irritants in bilateral relations, including the issue of reopening NATO supply routes to Afghanistan and American drone strikes in the tribal belt.
The two sides are discussing a new mechanism that might end US drone strikes in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, an unnamed top government official was quoted as saying by the media here.
"The two sides have covered some ground towards finding alternatives to missile attacks by the CIA's remotely piloted aircraft," said the official, who is a participant in talks with the US.
The US has agreed to explore other options after Pakistan made it clear that drone strikes were unacceptable, he said.
The official did not give any timeframe for talks on the drone campaign or say what alternatives the two sides were considering in place of the spy planes, which the US has described as a key element in its campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda elements in the tribal belt.
In the past, Pakistan has suggested using its own F-16 fighters as an alternative to the CIA-operated drones but the US turned this down due to fears of extensive collateral damage that could be caused by the more powerful munitions of the combat jets, diplomatic sources told PTI.
During yesterday's briefing, the official further told a select group of Pakistani journalists that Pakistan and the US were mulling the option of some sort of a joint statement to address Islamabad's demand for an apology for the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.
Pakistan closed the supply lines after the NATO attack and the country's top leadership has linked the reopening of the routes to an apology from the US.
The American administration has expressed regrets for the incident several times but has ruled out an apology.
The official said significant progress has been made on several issues linked to the NATO supply lines and that the two sides were close to finalising a mechanism to ensure that incidents like the NATO air strike did not occur in future.
He confirmed that the issue of an apology was the main stumbling block in reopening the routes.
Once key issues between Pakistan and the US are resolved, they can move forward towards the common goal of restoring peace in Afghanistan, the official said.