`Pak bid for Haqqani-Afghan rapprochement facing US oppn`

Last Updated: Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 15:24

Islamabad: Stiff US opposition to Pakistan`s initiative for rapprochement between the Taliban`s Haqqani network and Afghan government has halted negotiations and possibly jeopardised President Hamid Karzai`s plans for reconciliation with militants, a media report said on Thursday.

The halt in negotiations came after the change in the International Security Assistance Force`s command because of Gen Stanley McChrystal`s sacking.

The new commander, Gen David Petraeus, is said to be a hawk who believes that warring militant groups need to be targeted in the field before they agree to reconciliation.

The "less than congenial working relationship" between Petraeus and the Pakistan Army`s top brass too has contributed to this stoppage, which many think is temporary, the Dawn newspaper reported quoting unnamed sources.

Negotiators involved in the mediation said talks were progressing well until this recent snag and they had noted a change in the Haqqani group`s position for the better.

The government had last month started efforts for brokering a deal between Karzai and the Haqqanis, offering the warring group`s leadership a plan for a political settlement.

Senior officials, while explaining Pakistan`s position on the issue, were quoted as saying that Islamabad wanted the reconciliation process to be Afghan-led and desired that it should have international and American support.

"Pakistan cannot do it alone," one of them noted.

Though the Obama administration favours a Pakistani role in the reconciliation process, it is sceptical of success of in its current efforts, the report said.

The dominant thinking in the US is that it is not the right time for reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The US administration deems Haqqanis as irreconcilables and has been pressuring Islamabad to launch an offensive against the group in North Waziristan Agency.

"The US position is negatively impacting the Afghan endgame and is encouraging other players, both domestic and international, to exploit the situation," an official was quoted as saying. The reconciliation issue is expected to feature during the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad for the second round of Pakistan-US dialogue.

"We will be possibly having very intense discussions with (Hillary Clinton) on this issue," an official at the Foreign Office said.

Pakistani strategists looking after the talks with Haqqani network leaders were aware that the biggest challenge to their plan would come from the US.

But they launched the process with an understanding that the US attitude towards the Haqqani network was likely to become "less intransigent" with the passage of time given that the Americans were keen to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan by July 2011, the deadline set by President Barack Obama.

Pakistani strategists also consider the Haqqani group as their best bet for countering Indian influence in a post-US Afghanistan, the report said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 15:24

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