Pakistan US ties to deteriorate further in coming days as friction increases

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Pakistan US ties to deteriorate further in coming days as friction increases

WASHINGTON DC: The United States is confident that the Haqqani network was behind the Taliban’s Saturday ambulance bomb in Kabul that killed more than 100 people, officials say, a conclusion that could add friction to ties between Washington and Islamabad.

The United States has long blamed militant safe havens in Pakistan for prolonging the war in Afghanistan. A claim Pakistan has vehemently denied.

“We are very confident the Taliban Haqqani network was behind the killing of more than 103 people this past Saturday,” said Captain Tom Gresback, a US military spokesperson for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also told Reuters the United States believed the attack was the work of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, which Washington and Kabul have long accused of being behind some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

Afghanistan’s envoy to the United Nations, Mahmoud Saikal, on Monday suggested the plot was too complex for the Taliban to have developed on their own.

“Given the degree of sophistication … can you expect an illiterate Taliban to come up with this kind of genius plot, using ambulances?” Saikal told Reuters in an interview, adding Kabul was still gathering information. “It’s not a simple thing to do.”

Saturday’s blast, claimed by the Taliban, was the deadliest since 150 people were killed in a huge truck bomb explosion last May near the German embassy, which US officials also blamed on the Haqqani network.

It followed another Taliban-claimed attack a week earlier that killed more than 20 people in a siege of the city’s Intercontinental Hotel.

On Monday, militants raided a military academy in Kabul, the Afghan capital, killing 11 soldiers. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack near the Marshal Fahim military academy on the city’s western outskirts.

The attacks have put pressure on President Ashraf Ghani and his US allies, who have expressed growing confidence that a new, more aggressive military strategy has succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centers. - Agencies

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