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Clinton wants 'Quetta Shura' included in Afghan peace talks

Washington, Fri, 28 Oct 2011 ANI

Washington, Oct 28(ANI): US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told a congressional panel that any Afghan-led reconciliation process would have to include the Quetta Shura and its leader Mullah Omar.


During Clinton's appearance before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Steve Chabot, a Republican, asked her if the United States was prepared to negotiate with Mullah Omar. "And if so, under what circumstances and what would our conditions be?" he asked.


"Well, Congressman, the negotiations that would be part of any Afghan-led peace process would have to include the Quetta Shura and would have to include some recognition by the Quetta Shura which, based on everything we know, is still led by Mullah Omar, that they wish to participate in such a process," the Dawn quoted Clinton, as saying in her response.


"We are pursuing every thread of any kind of interest expressed," she added.


Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the panel's chairperson, questioned the wisdom of engaging the Haqqani network while it continued to attack US soldiers in Afghanistan.


"What's the US strategy, crackdown or negotiate with the Haqqani network or a little bit of both," she asked.


"It's both," Clinton replied.


Later, while responding to Congressman Chabot, she said the US agreed to meet the Haqqani network because that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had asked them to do so.


"This was done in part because I think the Pakistanis hope to be able to move the Haqqani network towards some kind of peace negotiation and the answer was an attack on our embassy" in Kabul, she said.


The US still wanted to stay engaged with the Haqqani network to test whether these organisations had any willingness to negotiate in good faith, she told Ros-Lehtinen.


"There is evidence going both ways, to be clear. Sometimes we hear that they will, that there are elements within each that wish to pursue that, and then other times that it's off the table." Clinton added.


Ros-Lehtinen asked the Secretary of State to comment on a recent statement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that if there were a war between Pakistan and America, he would side with Pakistan.


Clinton said that as soon as she heard this statement, she asked the US ambassador in Kabul to figure out what Karzai meant, and the ambassador reported back that the Afghan president was talking about the long history of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in particular the refuge that Pakistan provided to millions of Afghans during the Soviet occupation.


"This was not at all about a war that anybody was predicting," she said. (ANI)


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