US met Haqqani network: Hillary

Last Updated: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 00:46

Islamabad: Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Friday said the US did not intend to act unilaterally
against militant groups inside Pakistan even as she
acknowledged that American officials had held one exploratory
meeting with the Haqqani network.

Hillary made the remarks during a roundtable discussion
with a small group of Pakistani television journalists
following her meetings with the country`s top civil and
military leadership.

Asked if the US had plans for any military operations
against groups like the Haqqani network that are based in
Pakistan`s tribal belt, Hillary replied: "We don`t want to act
unilaterally, we want to act in concert with our friends, our
partners, our strategic allies in Pakistan.

"But we don`t want there to be any misunderstanding that
we have to act, otherwise there will be perhaps an incident in
the future that takes it out of the hands of any President,"
she said.

Hillary further acknowledged that the issue of US
carrying out operations with ground troops within Pakistan
"may have been raised" during her meetings with Pakistani
leaders "but it was not at all considered".

She said the US had held an exploratory meeting with
representatives of the Haqqani network.
Hillary did not give details about who was involved or
where they met.

"In fact, the Pakistani government officials helped to
facilitate such a meeting," she told the roundtable
discussion.

She made it clear that the US was not engaged "in any
kind of negotiations" with the Haqqanis.
"We`ve had one preliminary meeting just to see if they
would show up," she said.

An unnamed US official was quoted by journalists
travelling with Hillary as saying that Pakistan`s
Inter-Services Intelligence agency had arranged the meeting
with the Haqqanis "in the summer".

The meeting was held before two major attacks against US
interests in Afghanistan in September, the official said.
Hillary said the US did "not see any contradiction"
between simultaneously fighting and talking with the Taliban
and the Haqqani network.

"And we want more coordination between the US, Pakistan
and Afghanistan for what must be, with respect to the
conflict, an Afghan-led effort," she said.

"We believe that there is now an opportunity for us to
begin talking, but there is no guarantee that the talking will
result in anything that will move us toward a peaceful
resolution," Hillary said.

"We are going to continue fighting where necessary to
protect our interests, and so are the Pakistani military
because you cannot allow terrorists to gain ground," she
added.

The US was "open to talking" and this was the reason why
it had reached out to the Taliban and the Haqqani network to
"test their willingness and their sincerity".

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US will now try to forge a
process that will move towards "an actual negotiation", she
said.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 00:46

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