WASHINGTON: After setting terms for the Afghan reconciliation process, the United States said on Sunday it would encourage direct talks between Pakistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
President Karzai’s meeting with Pakistan’s top security officials “is a good thing, not a bad thing”, Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said.
In an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Mr Holbrooke said the US also supported Mr Karzai’s overtures to the Taliban.
“Among the Taliban leadership, there are some people who are reconcilable and some are not,” Mr Holbrooke said. “We support a policy in which the Afghan government of President Karzai takes the lead.”
The envoy, however, emphasised that the US government had had “no direct contact” with Taliban leaders. The Karzai government “have to reach political arrangements. That is up to them”, he said.
On Saturday, US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen reportedly delivered a message to senior Pakistani military officials, telling them that the Pentagon expected them to be sensitive to American security interests, as Islamabad sought to broker a deal between the Haqqani network and Kabul.
Mr Holbrooke, however, acknowledged that Pakistan had not tried to bypass the United States while reaching out to Afghan officials for seeking a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict.
He said that Gen Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, was present at the meeting Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held with President Karzai earlier this year.
The new commander, Gen David Petraeus, “will continue to play the same role, if not more so”, he said.
Admiral Mullen also urged Pakistan to rein in Lashkar-e-Taiba which, he said, had limited goals at first: the “liberation” of Muslims in Kashmir – that has “morphed into a general purpose terror group with regional and even global aspirations”.
Mr Holbrooke said that the US sought to “reduce the gap” between Pakistan and Afghanistan “while taking into account the strategic interests of India and other regional neighbours”.
But Mr Holbrooke made it clear that the US was not against the Kabul-Islamabad talks as long as it did not ignore American interests.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say the US has told Pakistan it wants all groups with ties to Al Qaeda, which includes the Haqqani network, out of the reconciliation process.
The US also wants the process of reconciliation confined to those who renounce violence, give up weapons and agree to work within a legal framework provided in the US-backed Afghan Constitution.
This, obviously, leaves no room for Islamabad’s efforts to include the Haqqani network in a future power set-up in Kabul. Dawn.com
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