Clinton: US Held Talks with Militant Haqqani Network

Posted October 21st, 2011 at 10:45 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has confirmed that the United States has reached out to the militant Haqqani network in a bid to end the violence in war-torn Afghanistan.

Clinton told a roundtable of journalists in Islamabad Friday that Pakistani government officials helped set up the preliminary meeting between American officials and the al-Qaida-linked group. Senior U.S. officials later said Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, organized the meeting, which was held last summer.

The Haqqani network has launched a number of attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. has called on Pakistan to do more to crack down on the militant group, which is believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan Tribal region. Top U.S. military officials have also accused the ISI of supporting the Haqqanis in their attacks.

Secretary Clinton said Friday that the United States does not see a contradiction in “fighting and talking.” She added that the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan must cooperate more closely to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day, Clinton met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and urged Pakistan to “take strong steps” to deny Afghan insurgents safe havens and encourage the Taliban to enter peace talks in Afghanistan.

Khar admitted Pakistan could do more in cooperating with other countries to clamp down on the militant safe havens along the Afghan border. But Khar noted that there are safe havens on both sides of the Afghan border and that there is “no question of any support” by Pakistan to the militants.

Pakistani officials have so far refused to launch an offensive against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, saying they want to solidify gains against their own domestic Taliban movement first.

Clinton was in a second day of meetings with top Pakistani officials in Islamabad. She is traveling with a large U.S. delegation for the talks, including CIA chief David Petraeus and top U.S. military officer General Martin Dempsey.

She arrived in the Pakistan on Thursday after meeting with President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, officials in northwestern Pakistan say at least 30 militants attacked the house of a prominent anti-Taliban elder's house, killing the elder's two sons and a daughter-in-law. Authorities say the attack happened Friday in the Mohmand tribal area bordering Afghanistan.