WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday the United States would not be comfortable in a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan if it felt Islamabad was not mindful of U.S. interests.
Obama told a news conference the United States remained committed to helping Pakistan confront its own problems despite concern over ties between some elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services and extremist groups operating in Afghanistan.
“But there’s no doubt that we’re not going to feel comfortable with a long-term strategic relationship with Pakistan if we don’t think that they’re mindful of our interests as well,” Obama said.
Obama’s words reflect a hardening of rhetoric across the U.S. government as officials voice frustration with Pakistan more openly following a September 10 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
U.S. officials blame the Haqqani network for that attack and others, and allege that the militant group has ties with Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Last month, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, went further, saying the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI, which he said had supported it in attacks against U.S. targets.
That kicked off a fresh round of recriminations between the United States and Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Obama said the United States and Pakistan were cooperating on a “whole range of issues” and that recent successes against al Qaeda-linked forces in the region would not have been possible without Pakistani help.
But he also acknowledged that Pakistan, fearful of traditional foe India and anxious to maintain its influence in Afghanistan as the United States draws down its forces, had been “more ambivalent” about some U.S. goals in the region.
“I think that they have hedged their bets in terms of what Afghanistan would look like, and part of hedging their bets is having interactions with some of the unsavory characters who they think might end up regaining power in Afghanistan after coalition forces have left,” Obama said.
“There is no doubt that there is some connections the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find troubling,” he said.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham