Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said terrorists have operated in Pakistan for “too long,” adding to an earlier warning that the nation will pay if it fails to act against militants staging attacks on U.S. forces.
“The U.S. looks to Pakistan to deny insurgents safe havens,” Clinton said at a news conference in Islamabad today. “Terrorists have operated from Pakistan for too long.”
Clinton spoke today after she and top U.S. security and intelligence officials met for four hours with Pakistani leaders yesterday. Their session covered counter-terrorism and efforts to heal relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clinton, who flew to Islamabad from Afghanistan, said yesterday that Pakistan should “be part of the solution” and not part of the problem by harboring militants and that the country would pay “a very big price” if it doesn’t act on those staging cross-border attacks against U.S. forces.
Clinton today is hearing from the Pakistani public at a forum where she said the U.S. wasn’t at the stage where it could enter a dialogue with militants in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think we’ve really gotten to the talk talk phase yet” of trying to engage militants, she said. “There may be no appetite for talking on the other side.”
Clinton’s delegation included Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey; Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, a special assistant to President Barack Obama on the Afghan war; and Marc Grossman, special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of army staff, and Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
“We intend to push Pakistan very hard,” Clinton said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai before leaving Kabul. “No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price,” she said.
‘Give Peace a Chance’
Gilani urged Clinton “to give peace a chance” during his meeting with the U.S. delegation, according to a statement issued by his office. The meeting’s atmosphere was “cordial and frank” and Clinton “recognized the importance of Pakistan in the context of peace and security in the region,” the statement said.
The U.S. talks in Pakistan follow a year of heightened tensions in U.S.-Pakistani relations, which spiked after the U.S. commando assault into Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May. Pakistani officials have said publicly they worry that the U.S. might try a bigger military assault into the country to attack bases of the guerrilla faction founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Last month, Dempsey’s predecessor as U.S. military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the Haqqani faction of the Taliban acts as a “veritable arm” of the ISI, Pakistan’s main spy agency, and is fighting a “proxy war” in Afghanistan.
In the past week, U.S. troops have conducted an offensive against the Haqqani group in eastern Afghanistan 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the faction’s headquarters in the Pakistani town of Miranshah.
Pakistani media reports this week have reflected concerns from Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad that the anti-militant operation may bleed over the border onto Pakistan’s territory, threatening its sovereignty and relations with the U.S.
Pakistan’s media also aired widespread complaints among Pakistani leaders that the scolding they were getting from the U.S. side -- especially Mullen’s congressional testimony last month -- was unwarranted.
“Hillary Harps on Do-More Theme,” blared a headline this week in the online version of The Nation newspaper from Islamabad.
The U.S. and Afghanistan say the Haqqani faction is responsible for most of the recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, including the attack on the U.S. embassy last month, the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in June, and earlier attacks on the Kabul City Center shopping complex, the Serena Hotel and the Indian Embassy.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, who is not related to the extremist group, said Oct. 19 that “Pakistan and the United States have a shared interest in a stable Afghanistan, but the major challenge for both the countries is to find common ground” on how to achieve it.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. must cooperate to fight terrorists, talk to those militants who are willing to renounce violence and build a better life for people on both sides of the border, Clinton said.
Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, always rocky, hit a new low following the assassination Sept. 20 of Afghanistan’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and an hours-long assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul Sept. 13. Most of the increased attacks in the Afghan capital have been carried out by the Haqqani network.
Rabbani’s death at the hands of a suicide bomber, who posed for months as a Taliban peace envoy, prompted Karzai to say efforts to talk with the Taliban were pointless. He said Pakistan’s government, which hosts the guerrillas on its territory and thus can influence them, is in a better position to assure war or peace in Afghanistan.
Clinton is seeking to breathe new life into the stalled diplomatic process ahead of conferences in Istanbul Nov. 2 and in Bonn Dec. 4 and 5 that will bring together nations offering aid and committed to finding political solutions for Afghanistan.
The Istanbul meeting will include Afghanistan’s neighbors and others from the region to discuss economic cooperation as well as training and equipping Afghan security forces.
The Bonn conference will convene envoys from 90 countries and international organizations to assess development and aid efforts 10 years following the ouster of the Taliban. The nations also will plan for the transition from NATO command to Afghan-led security by the end of 2014.
Obama in June announced that the first 10,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year, while the rest of about 33,000 additional forces he added in a troop surge announced in December 2009 would be out of Afghanistan by September 2012. U.S. and NATO troops plan to end major combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.