Hillary Clinton speaks with Pakistani
MPs at the US embassy in
Hillary Clinton visits Pakistan to urge action against Taliban militants
Clinton looks for Pakistani help in dealing with Haqqani network after bombing that injured 77 US soldiers
Hillary Clinton has led a US delegation to Islamabad in an attempt to prod Pakistan into action against the Haqqani network, now considered the most potent Taliban-affiliated militant group in Afghanistan.
Accompanied by the director of the CIA, David Petraeus, and the newly appointed military chief, General Martin Dempsey, Clinton held a four-hour meeting with Pakistan’s military chief and prime minister on Thursday night.
“For too long, extremists have been able to operate here in Pakistan and from Pakistani soil,” Clinton told a press conference with the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbbani Khar, on Friday morning.
Pakistani officials reject the criticism, saying they have working intelligence links with the Haqqanis, but not operational ones. “It’s not like we can pick up the phone and call them to Islamabad,” a senior military officer told the Guardian. “We know people who know people who know them.”
Still, few doubt Pakistan’s relations with the US have been at their lowest point in years since Admiral Mike Mullen, the former military chief, told a congressional committee last month that the Haqqanis were a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI spy agency.
The US military was furious about a Haqqani-directed truck bomb that injured 77 US soldiers, and a subsequent attack on the US embassy in Kabul. But the White House later rowed back on Mullen’s comments, suggesting a serious disconnect in US policy-making.
The high-level composition of this latest visit, however, seemed designed to send a message of renewed American unity and purpose.
US officials are demanding that Pakistan either deliver the Haqqani network to peace talks, kill its leaders, or pave the way for the Americans to eliminate them. Quoting Pakistan’s military chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, Clinton said Pakistan had the capacity “to encourage, to push, to squeeze” them into peace talks. “That is what we are looking for.” But, she added, it was not clear whether the militants were ready for talks.
Clinton added that the US had also “reached out to the Haqqani network” to see if it was ready to talk peace. “We are now working among us – Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States – to try to put together a process that would sequence us toward an actual negotiation,” she said.
Failing that, US officials suggest they would escalate military strikes. Already this week US troops have conducted a major deployment in south-eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Earlier they captured one senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan and killed a second in a drone strike in North Waziristan.
Clinton was unusually frank about the level of cooperation with Pakistani authorities in conducting the drone strikes, calling it “one of the real successes of the relationship”.
“We work with the Pakistani military and intelligence services [so] that any person who has committed a terrorist act or is about to commit one can be intercepted. There are many ways of doing that. I think it’s one of the real successes of the relationship.”
Amid the serious talks there was one laugh. During the “town hall” meeting in Islamabad, a Pakistani woman told Clinton that the US acted like Pakistan’s mother-in-law.
“We are trying to please you, and every time you come and visit us you have a new idea and tell us, ‘You are not doing enough and need to work harder,'” she said, triggering laughter and applause.
Clinton, whose daughter married a New York investment banker this summer, smiled and replied: “Now that I am a mother-in-law, I totally understand what you’re saying.”