Ref: Pakistan must be a part of the Afghan peace process, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress on Thursday while announcing that senior Afghan, Pakistani and American officials would meet next week for further talks on this issue.
In an interview to the AFP news agency, Mr Gates said that “some positive steps” by Pakistan were needed but “as long as the picture stays mixed like that, that we can be successful”.
In her opening remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Clinton disclosed that the United States had also included Iran in the peace process.
US Special Representative Marc Grossman was leading an active diplomatic effort to build support for a political solution to the Afghan war, she said.
“What we call the Core Group — Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States — has met twice and will convene again next week,” Mrs Clinton said, without saying where this group would meet.
But diplomatic sources told Dawn that the meeting would be held in Kabul on June 27 and Mr Grossman would lead the US delegation.
Reports in the US and international media suggest that senior American officials have already had several meetings with senior Taliban officials in Germany and other places. Pakistan also participated in these meetings. “Pakistan must be part of this process,” said Secretary Clinton, indirectly confirming Pakistan`s participation.
The US, she said, was also engaging other countries in the region “around a common vision of an independent, stable Afghanistan and a region free of Al Qaeda.”
The talks with those nations, she said, were also progressing smoothly. “We believe we`ve made progress with all of the neighbours, including India, Russia, and even Iran.”
Secretary Clinton noted that last Friday the UN Security Council voted unanimously to support reconciliation by splitting its sanctions on Al Qaeda and the Taliban into two separate lists.
This, she said, opened the door for the insurgents to abandon the terrorists and choose a different path.
“We welcome these steps, and for the United States the key diplomatic priority and indeed a lynchpin of this entire effort is closing the gap between Kabul and Islamabad.”
Secretary Clinton recalled that earlier this month, Pakistan and Afghanistan launched a joint peace commission and held substantive talks at the highest levels.
“Also, very significant, was the full implementation on June 12th of the Transit Trade Agreement, which will create new economic opportunity on both sides of the Durand Line and lay the foundation for a broader vision of regional economic integration and cooperation,” she said.
Secretary Clinton said that she recently visited Pakistan, and had, “as we say in diplo-speak, very candid discussions” with its leaders.
“The United States has clear expectations for this relationship, and as President Obama said last night, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who kill Americans,” she said.
“We are looking to Pakistan to take concrete actions on the goals we share: Defeating violent extremism, which has also taken so many innocent Pakistani lives; ending the conflict in Afghanistan; and securing a stable, democratic, prosperous future.