Clinton Presses Pakistan to Eliminate Militant Safe Havens

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 4:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Islamabad late Thursday, where she is expected to deliver a blunt warning to Pakistan to remove Taliban safe havens on its soil.

Clinton, arriving from Kabul, Afghanistan, is traveling with a large U.S. contingent for two days of talks with Pakistani leaders. Her high-ranking delegation includes U.S. spy chief David Petraeus and top military officer General Martin Dempsey.

The office of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani issued a statement saying that discussions late Thursday evening between the two sides were “cordial and frank.” But it urged the U.S. not to let disagreements undermine the “strategic relationship which is so vital for the promotion of mutual interests of the two countries.”

Secretary Clinton has not issued a statement about the meeting. But following talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier Thursday, she told reporters that her message to Pakistan was “very clear.” She said as the U.S. and Afghan government work to bring stability to Afghanistan, Pakistan can “either be helping or hindering.”

Clinton said Pakistan needs to be part of the solution in tackling the shared Taliban threat, and that it must eliminate terrorists who kill their own people and cross the border to “kill in Afghanistan.”

Both U.S. and Afghan officials have accused Islamabad of supporting insurgent groups in Afghanistan, a charge the Pakistani government denies.

Clinton also urged Pakistan to play a greater role in bringing peace to neighboring Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai and Clinton discussed the reconciliation process and security transition, as international troops begin withdrawing from Afghanistan and transferring security responsibility to Afghan security forces.

The United States has been pushing Pakistan to launch a military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region, the reported base of the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network.

Clinton noted earlier Thursday that U.S. and Afghan forces had recently launched a joint operation against Haqqani militants operating on the Afghan side of the border.

Pakistan's army chief said Tuesday that his forces could take action in North Waziristan “tomorrow” if he were convinced it would solve all problems. But General Ashfaq Kayani insisted that any such offensive would be Pakistan's decision.

On Thursday, Pakistani paramilitary soldiers launched a raid in the Khyber tribal area along the Afghan border, resulting in a shootout that killed at least three soldiers and up to 34 militants.