US relying on ISI for "reconciliation talks"
New York: After accusing Pakistan's ISI of
supporting the Haqqani terror network, the Obama
administration is now relying on the spy agency to help it
organise and begin "reconciliation talks" aimed at ending the
war in Afghanistan, a media report said here.
"The revamped approach, which Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton called 'Fight, Talk, Build' combines continued
American air and ground strikes against the Haqqani network
and the Taliban with an insistence that Pakistan's ISI get
them to the negotiating table," the 'New York Times' daily
The new strategy has emerged as an option in the wake of
the increased attacks against Americans in Kabul, including
the suicide attack on Saturday that killed as many as 10
Americans and in which the Haqqanis are suspected.
"It is the latest effort at brokering a deal with
militants before the last of 33,000 American troops prepare to
pull out of Afghanistan by September, and comes as early hopes
in the White House about having the outlines of a deal in time
for a multinational conference December 5 in Bonn, Germany,
have been all but abandoned," the report said.
However, a few elements of the ISI "see little advantage"
in forcing those negotiations, as they see insurgents as their
best bet for maintaining influence in Afghanistan once the US
reduces its presence there.
The new strategy has been met with deep skepticism by some
in the Obama administration, partly because the Pakistani
government has developed its own strategy at odds with
A senior American official summarised the Pakistani
position as 'Cease-fire, Talk, Wait for the Americans to
Leave'. "In short, the US is in the position of having to rely
heavily on the ISI to help broker a deal with the same group
of militants that leaders in Washington say the spy agency is
financing and supporting," the NYT report added.
It quoted former top Obama White House aide on Pakistan
and Afghanistan Shamila Chaudhary as saying that Pakistanis
see the "contradictions in the American approach. The big
question for the administration is, What can the Pakistanis
actually deliver? Pakistan is holding its cards very closely."
The US intelligence officials have also deepened an
investigation into the role, if any, the Haqqani network
played in the bombing in Kabul on Saturday.
Several current and former American officials say the US
has tried this "bomb-them-to-the-bargaining-table" approach
before but it resulted in little so far with the Afghan
"I don't think anyone expects Secretary Clinton's visit
(to Kabul and Islamabad) to produce reconciliation," former
CIA officer Bruce Riedel said.
The deterioration of US-Pak relations is likely to
continue while "as an incentive," the US has offered Pakistan
a prominent role in reconciliation talks, American officials
have warned that they will take unilateral action if
negotiations fail, the report said.
Admiral Mike Mullen, just before retiring last month as
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said the Haqqani
network was a veritable arm of the Pakistani spy service.
Clinton, who was accompanied by new director of the
Central Intelligence Agency David Petraeus and new chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, did not use her
meeting to insist that the Pakistan military mount an
offensive to root out the Haqqanis and other militants that
operate from sanctuaries in North Waziristan.
"Instead, the administration says, it is pressing the
Pakistanis to provide intelligence on the Haqqanis, arrest
some of the group's operatives and reduce ties to the
terrorist group - all steps well short of military action,"
the report said.
Clinton used her meeting in Kabul and Islamabad to
reassure Pakistanis that they would play a central role in any
"We're at the point where Pakistanis have told us they're
going to squeeze the Haqqani network," a senior administration
"They're satisfied they've got a way forward on
reconciliation. They've got a role to play."
An exploratory meeting was held secretly late August in
the United Arab Emirates between a mid-level American diplomat
and Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of the tribal network's
ISI head Ahmed Shuja Pasha had brokered the meeting.