Clinton defends U.S. efforts to talk with terrorists
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday defended the Obama administrations efforts to talk to the Taliban and an al Qaeda-linked terrorist network, but skeptical members of Congress said this approach cannot work without support from Pakistan.
“Even if these groups were sincere in their desire to reconcile - and I’m skeptical that they are - Pakistan remains the spoiler,” he said.
“We want to fight, talk and build all at the same time,” she said.
Part of the reason for the administration’s approach is “to test whether these organizations have any willingness to negotiate in good faith,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“There’s evidence going both ways. Sometimes we hear that they will, that there are elements within each that wish to pursue that; and then other times that it’s off the table,” she added.
Mrs. Clinton said Pakistan has a critical role to play and a big stake in the outcome of these efforts. She urged Pakistan to encourage the terrorists to participate in the peace process in good faith and to shut down their safe havens.
The peace process was dealt a serious blow in September when a suicide bomber assassinated former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading a committee to reconcile with the terrorists.
“If insurgents cannot meet those red lines, they will face continued and unrelenting assault,” she warned.
The Haqqani Network, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, occupies safe havens in Pakistans North Waziristan agency, which abuts Afghanistan.
U.S. officials say the Haqqani network is supported by elements in Pakistans military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm” of the ISI.
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