Amid accusation by Pakistan that America deliberately sabotaged peace talks by killing Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, the US on Sunday said the militant group has a "symbiotic relationship" with al-Qaeda and acts like its force multiplier besides providing "safe haven" to terrorists.
The US Embassy here said it was "not in a position" to confirm whether Hakimullah was killed in a CIA drone strike on Friday in lawless North Waziristan tribal region.
"However, let us be clear that Hakimullah Mehsud is considered the commander of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group that claimed responsibility for the failed bombing of Times Square in New York City on May 1, 2010.
"In addition TTP and al-Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship; TTP draws ideological guidance from al-Qaeda, while al-Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border," Sandeep Paul, Acting US Embassy Spokesperson, told PTI.
This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al-Qaeda's global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members, he said.
"Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al-Qaeda," he said.
Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar yesterday condemned the US strike as a "murder of peace in the region", saying a team of religious clerics was about to meet the TTP with a view to starting peace talks when Mehsud was killed.
"Brick by brick in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you (the US) done?" he said.
"You have scuttled it on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema (religious scholars) was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation," he said on Saturday.
However, Paul said US has an ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding "all aspects of the relationship and our shared interests, including security and counterterrorism cooperation, and we work together to address each other’s concerns."
He added that Hakimullah and other TTP leaders have publicly vowed to continue targeting the US and Americans.
"Mehsud is also wanted in connection with his involvement in the murder of seven and injury of six American citizens on December 30, 2009 at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province, Afghanistan. Mehsud has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against US citizens abroad," he said.
The Foreign Office yesterday summoned US envoy Richard Olson to protest the drone attack. In a statement, it said the attack that killed Mehsud will have a "negative impact" on the government's efforts to hold talks with the Taliban.
Nisar had yesterday said US envoy Olson had told him that US will not undertake any drone strike during peace talks.
The Ambassador had, however, said they will target Hakimullah if given a chance.