The west must continue to co-operate closely with Pakistan despite US claims that Pakistans intelligence agency is assisting Islamist insurgents fighting allied troops in Afghanistan, Natos secretary-general has said. Anders Fogh Rasmussen declined to say whether he agreed with claims by Admiral Mike Mullen, the US militarys recently-retired top officer, that Pakistans Inter-Service Intelligence directorate supported attacks on US and Nato facilities by Pakistan-based Haqqani militants. I dont think there are many alternatives to working with the Pakistani military and government leadership to convince them to clamp down on the Haqqani operation. Whatever might be the links between the Haqqani network and authorities in Pakistan, the bottom line remains the same, Mr Rasmussen said in an interview with the Financial Times. Pakistan must deal with it and make sure terrorists dont have safe havens in Pakistan, and we need a close partnership and a positive partnership with Pakistan. US expectations of Pakistani forces moving against the Haqqani network based in North Waziristan are low. The Pakistani army insists that existing efforts to clear militants along the Afghan border have left it too stretched to launch new, and domestically unpopular, operations. The countrys civilian and military leaders say that the US has failed to understand the complexity of the alliances and threats in the tribal areas along the border. The Haqqani network is viewed by many analysts as a key proxy for Pakistan in its bid to retain control of territory in the Pashtun-belt of southern Afghanistan. Diplomats in Islamabad describe Pakistans tolerance of militant groups in the border region as hedging over the future of Afghanistan once US troops withdraw in 2014. Pakistan cannot be sidelined from any settlement on Afghanistan, Ahmed Mukhtar, Pakistans defence minister, told the FT. Pakistan and Afghanistan must co-operate to stabilise the region, otherwise peace will remain a distant prospect. Nobody can ignore Pakistans centrality to a successful end to the Afghan campaign. Relations between Islamabad and Washington have reached new lows in recent months following the Obama administrations decision to raid Osama bin Ladens Pakistani compound without consent from the Pakistan government and Adm Mullens allegations against the ISI, made on Capitol Hill last month. The incidents have inflamed passions in both countries, with congressional appropriators threatening to cut off billions of military aid to Pakistan and anti-American demonstrations breaking out in several Pakistani cities. Adm Mullens comments were the most visible sign of a more aggressive policy towards Islamabad by the Obama administration, which earlier tried to embrace the Pakistani leadership a policy strongly advocated at the time by Adm Mullen, who formed a close relationship with the Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani. Mr Rasmussen denied that the new hardline stance taken by the Obama administration risked up-ending his push to continue close co-operation with Islamabad. He said he still considered Pakistan a partner in Natos Afghan campaign and believed Pakistans leadership could be incentivised to take a more aggressive stance towards the Haqqanis and affiliated extremist groups. I dont believe we have other ways to deal with this than continue to work with the Pakistanis and really make sure they understand we have a common interest, he said.(The Financial Times)