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    Pakistan tightens noose around Haqqani: Mullen

    KABUL (PAN): The United States’ highest-ranking military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, on Sunday said that he had talks with Pakistani officials to tighten the noose around the Haqqani terror network.

    On an unannounced visit to Kabul, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Haqqani network based in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of Wazirstan near the Afghanistan border, was the main source of violence in Afghanistan.

    However, he said that Pakistan had intensified pressure on the group. Mullen called Pakistan as home to the Al Qaeda.

    Militants associated with the Haqqani group were involved in attacks on American forces by crossing the border into Afghanistan from Pakistan, he said, adding they would continue to hold talks with Pakistani officials to prevent terrorist activities in the region and ensure stability.

    In a reference to the security situation in Afghanistan, Mullen said that the security situation was under control in southern Afghanistan due to the cooperation of local people. He said that Afghan and foreign troops had gained more grounds against insurgents this year as compared to the previous year.

    The Taliban had suffered such significant losses over recent months that it could not mount significant military offensives to retake lost ground across the region, he said.

    The security situation had improved in Kandahar and Helmand and people there were happy with the handover of the security control to the Afghan lead, he said.

    Despite a wave of high-profile suicide attacks against key officials in southern Afghanistan, Admiral Mullen, who toured southern and eastern regions of the country, offered assurances that allied and local security forces would continue to push insurgents into retreat.

    The assurance came after the killing of President Hamid Karzai's half brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai and the mayor of Kandahar.

    About the security transition, he said that President Obama’s order to begin withdrawing the 33,000 additional American “surge” troops, beginning this summer, could be carried out without putting the mission at risk.

     “I am very confident that we can meet both the needs on the ground as well as the deadlines and the goals that have been laid out by the president," he said.

    He said that Afghan security forces were scheduled to increase in size over the timeline of those withdrawals.

    He disclosed that top commanders in Afghanistan were likely to submit their specific proposals for the withdrawal sometime in October.

    Admiral Mullen said American commanders had taken extra precautions to protect their forces and were advising senior Afghan officials on security measures as well.

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