Washington, Jan 12: The Bush Administration has avoided commenting on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's reported warning to the United States against unilateral move into his country's tribal region to hunt down al-Qaeda or Taliban militants.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday that he had seen only the press reports,''I'm not sure what he actually said or didn't say.'' He, however, said, ''the thing that's clear to us is we have a cooperative relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan is an important partner for us in combating terrorism and combating extremism. And certainly, anything that the United States has done and anything the United States will do will be in full cooperation with the Pakistani Government.''
Musharraf has been quoted by a Singapore daily saying that any US lateral action in Pakistan's Tribal region would be considered a breach of sovereignty. Meanwhile, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen has voiced concern at the existence of al-Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan and said that al-Qaeda militants were not only launching attacks in Afghanistan, but inside Pakistan also.
While talking to mediapersons yesterday, Admiral Mullen said the United States was mindful that, Pakistan is a sovereign nation and that it is up to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his military advisors to confront the problem directly.
The New York Times reported last week that Washington was considering expanding the authority of the CIA and the US military to launch aggressive covert operations within the tribal regions.
Several US presidential candidates have also hinted they would support unilateral action in the area. al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in the tribal regions of the country.