U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks with Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak during a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Kabul on June 7. (Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images)
KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. is growing ever more frustrated with Pakistan’s reluctance to go after suspected terrorist camps in its country that are to blame for attacks against NATO forces and civilians in Afghanistan.
“We are reaching the limits of our patience here,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during a June 6 press conference near the Afghan Ministry of Defense during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.
Panetta — on his fourth trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary — appeared alongside Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. The two touted successes in the country and NATO’s commitment for assistance after combat troops withdraw in 2014.
Still, Panetta’s comments show U.S. patience is growing thin with Pakistan, which has refused to let NATO supply trucks use its roads to bring supplies from ports into Afghanistan. The routes are said to be critical to removing U.S. equipment as combat forces begin to exit the country.
Pakistan reportedly is seeking a $5,000 per container tariff to use its roads.
“We are continuing to negotiate on the supply routes,” Panetta said during a June 5 briefing with reporters in New Delhi. “We are working to see if we can arrive at an agreement that will allow us to be able to do it and do it in a way that will obviously meet our needs and meet the targets that we established with regards to what we can afford.”
At the same time, Taliban and Haqqani network militants are said to be taking refuge in Pakistan, where they plan attacks against NATO forces, U.S. officials say.
“[I]t is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place and from allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces,” Panetta said in Afghanistan.
At a meeting with U.S. forces earlier in the day, Panetta said Haqqani forces are using the Pakistani border region to launch attacks against NATO forces.
“We have every responsibility to defend ourselves and we are going to make very clear that we are prepared to take them on,” he said. “We’ve got to put pressure on Pakistan to take them on as well.”
During the brief stop, Panetta also met with Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of NATO forces, at the Kabul airport.
He then made the drive to the nearby Afghan MoD.