In lengthy talks, US presses Pakistan on Haqqanis

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Pakistan in 3-1/2 hours of talks to attack the Haqqani network militant group.

Updated: Sep 19, 2011, 19:10 PM IST

New York: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Pakistan in 3-1/2 hours of talks on Sunday to attack the Haqqani network militant group Washington blames for a recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul, a senior US official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue of counterterrorism in general and the Haqqani network in particular were the first and last topics discussed by Hillary and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

The Haqqani network is one of three, and perhaps the most feared, of the Taliban-allied insurgent factions fighting US-led NATO and Afghan troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Insurgents in a bomb-laden truck occupied a building in Kabul on Tuesday, raining rockets and gunfire on the US embassy and other targets in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital, and battled police during a 20-hour siege.

Five Afghan police and 11 civilians were killed.

"Obviously the issue of counterterrorism was both the first issue and the last issue on their agenda," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, describing the meeting as "very substantial, very candid”.

A second senior US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said it had always been Hillary`s plan to have two to three hours of talks with Khar to discuss US-Pakistan relations, which are marked by deep distrust.

"The attacks in Kabul on the 13th of September changed the nature of the meeting," he said. "The issue of counterterrorism and particularly the issue of the Haqqani network was ... the first thing on the secretary`s agenda and also the last."

`Pakistan`s got to deal with it`

"What we said was that this is a huge problem and that Pakistan`s got to deal with it," he added.

While he said the two discussed things Pakistan could do on its own to attack the Haqqani network as well as actions that the countries could take together, it was unclear if the United States secured any explicit commitments from Pakistan.

US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan in blunt comments that aired on Saturday that "there is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop."

The senior US official suggested Hillary had discussed evidence of such links with Khar and also specific steps that Pakistan could take against the militant group but he offered no details.

"There are clearly actions that the Pakistanis could take to go after the Haqqani network and I thought the minister was quite clear in saying that those were the kinds of things that the Pakistani government would look at and ... take action on," he added.

Washington blames militants sheltering in Pakistan for violence in Afghanistan. The discovery of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he was killed this year by US commandos, has aggravated tensions between the two countries.

Islamabad says its forces are taking heavy casualties fighting insurgents and bristles at any suggestion it provides support for fighters.

The Haqqanis are thought to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan, and are believed to have been behind high-profile attacks there, including a raid on Kabul`s top hotel and an assassination attempt on the president.

In one example of the Haqqani group`s effectiveness, they are believed to have helped an al Qaeda suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents at a US base in eastern Afghanistan last year, the deadliest strike on the agency in decades.

Bureau Report