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The U.S. sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to the region as politicians in Islamabad rejected U.S. allegations their country is aiding guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan.

Marc Grossman also will visit India, China and Central Asia in preparation for a conference on Afghanistan in Turkey in November, the State Department said in Washington, without providing a detailed itinerary.

A combined Afghan and coalition security force captured a leader of the militant Islamic Haqqani network last month, according to NATO. The capture of Haji Mali Khan could provide valuable information about the Haqqani network’s operations in Afghanistan and perhaps also about its links to Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, said a U.S. intelligence official.

According to NATO, Khan was detained during a security operation in Jani Khel district, Paktiya province, on Sept. 27. He is “the senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan” and the uncle of Siraj and Badruddin Haqqani, the NATO statement said. He was responsible for managing bases and oversight of operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said.

The Haqqani network was formed in the 1980s with support from Pakistan, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to battle the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It’s now based in Pakistan’s North Waziristan and considered the most dangerous ally of al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, blamed for attacks on the American embassy in Kabul, the Inter-Continental hotel there and other U.S., NATO and Afghan government targets.
Strained Relations

Already strained relations between Washington and Islamabad might be complicated by new intelligence from Khan on Pakistani support for Haqqani attacks, the intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified.

Admiral Mike Mullen, who retired Sept. 29 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week the Haqqani Taliban faction “acts as a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Pakistani government leaders said the claims “are without substance and derogatory.”
Alienating Pakistan

“Public recrimination of an ally is not the answer,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program, scheduled for broadcast today. “As foreign minister, my concern is you alienating the people of Pakistan. You cannot afford to do that.”

Pakistanis “are the ones who have sacrificed the most,” Khar said. “We are the ones who are fighting it on the ground on the daily basis.”

“We need to be seen as a worthy partner,” she said on the CNN program.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hosted political parties, including Islamic opposition groups, in Islamabad last week in a show of unity after U.S. charges that Pakistan-based insurgents struck American targets in the Afghan capital, Kabul, last month.

The Pakistani politicians called on Gilani to seek talks with militants in the country’s tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan. The militants have been targeted by army offensives for more than two years.
Failed Negotiations

Earlier negotiations to convince militants to end violence have failed. The army began campaigns in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley in 2009 to weaken the Pakistani Taliban. The group had aligned itself with al-Qaeda and carried out attacks and suicide bombings, killing thousands of Pakistani civilians and members of the security forces.

Grossman also will visit Kabul after the Afghan government said yesterday it may suspend efforts to work with Pakistan on a process to end the war in Afghanistan because no progress has been made.

Afghanistan may work more closely with the U.S., Europe and India instead of trying to negotiate with Taliban groups based in Pakistan, President Hamid Karzai said in a statement issued by his office.

The Afghan statement said Karzai met with government and security officials to assess Afghan policy after a suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the government’s High Peace Council, on Sept. 20.

“In spite of three years of negotiations and efforts to make peace and good relations with Pakistan, the Pakistani government has not taken any steps to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries or prevent Taliban military training and armament on its soil,” the statement from Karzai’s office said.

Talks involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. have been “useful,” Nuland said Sept. 30 in Washington. Grossman will discuss the value of the process and “see where we go” with officials in Kabul and Islamabad, she said.

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