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Hillary suggests Use persuasion to tackle Haqqani network

Posted by on Friday, October 21, 2011, 16:33
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday urged Pakistan to use persuasion to end the threat by Haqqani network militants who have been responsible for a number of recent major attacks in Afghanistan.

Asked at a town hall meeting with mostly young Pakistanis in Islamabad whether she wanted Pakistan to use its military to tackle the Haqqani network or to force it to come to the negotiating table, Clinton replied: “It s more the latter.”

“We think that Pakistan for a variety of reasons has the capacity to encourage, to push, to squeeze terrorists, including the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban, to be willing to engage in the peace process. So that is what we re looking for.”

Earlier, the top US diplomat spent Friday locked in talks with Pakistani leaders following a four-hour session late Thursday in neighbouring Afghanistan designed to quicken an end to one of America s longest wars.

Unusually accompanied by CIA director David Petraeus and the top US military officer General Martin Dempsey, she increased pressure on Pakistan to take concrete action but also sought to reassure Islamabad of long-term US support.

“We look to Pakistan to take strong steps to deny Afghan insurgents safe havens and to encourage the Taliban to enter negotiations in good faith,” said Clinton after talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

The United States was looking for operational action “over the next days and weeks, not months and years, but days and weeks because we have a lot of work to do to realise our shared goals,” emphasised Clinton.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States deteriorated dramatically over the May 2 American Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad and US accusations over the September 13 US embassy siege in Kabul.

The then top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, called the militant Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and accused its spies of being involved in the embassy siege.

In response, Pakistani leaders united behind calls to “give peace a chance” but Clinton said that in order to do that, “we have some work to do”.

With US and Afghan troops pressing a new offensive against the Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan, Clinton called on Pakistan to up the pressure on militant safe havens on its side of the border.

“We asked very specifically for greater cooperation from the Pakistani side to squeeze the Haqqani network and other terrorists trying to eliminate terrorists and safe havens on one side of the border is not going to work.

“It s like that old story: you can t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors… Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

Pakistan has so far refused to open a new offensive against the Haqqani network in its leadership base in North Waziristan, arguing that its troops are too overstretched and that the country has already sacrificed too many lives.

“It s not just military action. There is greater sharing of intelligence so we can prevent and intercept the efforts by the Haqqanis or the Taliban to try to cross the border or to plan an attack,” said Clinton.

Pakistan s foreign minister, who attended four hours of talks Thursday involving military, intelligence and civilian leaders from both sides, appeared to give a commitment to do more.

“Do safe havens exist? Yes, they do exist both sides. Do we need to cooperate? Yes. We can cooperate more and achieve better results,” said Khar.

Pakistani policy makers have argued that military operations offer limited gains and that now is the time to concentrate on a comprehensive reconciliation ahead of the planned NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Khar denied US accusations that elements within its intelligence services support Afghan insurgents.

“There is no question of any support by any Pakistani institutions to safe havens. Let me be very clear and unequivocal on that,” she added.

Since siding with the US-led war on terror in 2001, Pakistan has received billions in US aid, but seen a huge surge in insecurity — losing 3,000 soldiers in battle with the Taliban and thousands of civilians in bomb attacks.

Many Pakistanis, while angry at homegrown violence and at their own leaders, consider the United States to be the fount of their troubles.

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