ISLAMABAD: Unprecedented talks held on Thursday between top civil, military and intelligence officials from Pakistan and the US made little progress in the effort to iron out differences on how to tackle the Haqqani network.
However, the two countries reached a ‘broader understanding’ on how to move forward in Afghanistan, official sources told The Express Tribune.
The two-hour long discussions, led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were held against the backdrop of strained ties between Washington and Islamabad following charges by US officials that Pakistan is playing a ‘double game’ when it comes to dealing with militants.
(Read: ‘The worst is over’ for Pakistan and US)
Clinton was accompanied by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsy, Director Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Petraeus, US Special Envoy Marc Grossman and US Ambassador Cameron Munter, while Premier Gilani was assisted by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and other senior officials.
Clear message delivered
The rare gathering was not only meant to repair ties but also to narrow down differences on the issue of the Haqqani network, viewed by Washington as the deadliest Afghan Taliban-allied insurgent group, and to discuss the Afghan endgame.
Official sources confirmed that Secretary Clinton delivered a clear message from the Obama Administration that Pakistan will have to dismantle alleged terrorist sanctuaries in the country’s tribal belt.
Despite the renewed demand, Pakistan conveyed to the US that it could not launch a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan Agency – believed to be a stronghold of the Haqqani network.
“Our position is very clear, now, that the only way forward to address this issue is through dialogue,” said an official familiar with the development.
‘Give peace a chance’
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s press office also confirmed that Pakistan has no plans to initiate a military operation in North Waziristan.
“Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called upon US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give peace a chance, as envisaged in the All Parties Conference’s resolution,” said the statement.
(Read: Giving peace a chance)
The All Parties Conference, held recently to discuss threats emanating from Washington, proposed negotiations with militants to end the years-long unrest in the region.
“The APC resolution reflects the sentiments of the Pakistani nation,” Prime Minister Gilani was quoted as telling Secretary Clinton.
However, Pakistan’s proposal is in direct conflict with the US approach that seeks military offensive against militant groups including the Haqqani network.
According to the statement, Secretary Clinton appreciated the APC resolution, which, she said, was the right message from Pakistan to the world.
It is believed that Pakistan urged the US to rethink its strategy of using force to settle the conflict in Afghanistan.
Earlier in Kabul, Secretary Clinton called for a new partnership between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight militants.
(Read: Clinton steps up pressure on Pakistan, Taliban)
She said Pakistan ‘must be part of the solution’ to the Afghan conflict.
Dempsey, who took over as the top US military officer in September, planned a candid discussion with the military brass “about sustaining areas of common interest and improving areas where our interests have diverged,” his spokesman Colonel David Lapan said.
The addition of Petraeus could be especially significant, political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Reuters.
“America will produce evidence before the army chief, that you are involved (in supporting the violence in Afghanistan). With David Petraeus coming as well, they have definitely brought evidence,” he said. “He will provide evidence that you are involved, ISI is involved,” he added. “But nothing will come out in public.”
(Read: The Taliban & the Haqqanis)
Meanwhile, CIA director David Patreaus and ISI Chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha held a one-on-one meeting to discuss the intelligence cooperation between the two countries.
ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM REUTERS
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2011.