ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday admitted the United States held one exploratory meeting with the Haqqani network, which an official said took place before a series of massive attacks.
“In fact, the Pakistani government officials helped to facilitate such a meeting,” Clinton told a roundtable with television journalists watched by the US travelling media.
A US official said the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) had arranged for the meeting with the group that took place “in the summer”, before two symbolic anti-American attacks in Afghanistan.
Following two days of talks in Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to hasten an end to the 10-year war Clinton said that “we do not see any contradiction” between fighting and talking.
“And we want more coordination between the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan for what must be, with respect to the conflict, an Afghan-led effort,” the chief US diplomat 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,” Clinton 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 said.
“But we are also open to talking. We have reached out to the Taliban, we have reached out to the Haqqani network to test their willingness and their sincerity,” she said.
“And we’re 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.
But referring to the meeting with the Haqqani network, she said “we’re not in any kind of negotiations. We’ve had one preliminary meeting just to see if they would show up.”
A State Department official said later the meeting occurred in the summer before a truck bombing wounded 77 Americans on a US base and a 19-hour siege of the US embassy in Kabul, both in September and both blamed on the Haqqanis.
“We have had a lot of informal straws in the wind. It was one meeting. It was in summer,” the official said.
“We had it because ISI asked us to have it, and the Afghans also knew about it and our message was very clear: ‘the door is open to those who can meet these red lines, and those who want to keep fighting us… we are prepared for that fight.”