Pak to Talk Counter Terrorism With US, Afghanistan

Pak to Talk Counter Terrorism With US, Afghanistan
Pakistan will soon hold confidential talks with the US and Afghanistan to improve a three-way counter terrorism relationship beset by misunderstandings, including one over the Pakistan-based Haqqani network that Washington considers the greatest threat to Afghan stability, the country's foreign minister has said.

But Hina Rabbani Khar refused to say whether her government was ready to take any action against the Haqqani militants.

In an interview, the Pakistani foreign minister said senior officials from the three countries have been instructed to come up with a strategy for repairing cooperation that has suffered since US-Pakistani relations collapsed a year and half ago.

That chill in relations was brought on by a CIA contractor's killing of two Pakistanis, the unilateral US raid on Osama bin Laden's compound inside Pakistan and the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani troops in November by NATO forces.

A key element of the talks will be to determine which militant groups can be persuaded to lay down their arms as part of an Afghan peace treaty a crucial if so far lagging part of the US strategy to stabilize the country as it withdraws forces over the next two years.

"This has to be a joint effort to determine who is a threat ... To determine how do we deal with those who are a threat, and how do we bring in those which are not," Khar who was in Washington on her first official visit since being appointed Pakistan's top diplomat last year told AP.

"We are willing to work with anyone against any forces which are a threat to peace and stability."

Khar also addressed other contentious points in the US-Pakistani relationship, heaping scorn on the doctor who allegedly helped the US track down bin Laden in Pakistan last year and defending her government's decision to declare a national holiday today so people can demonstrate against an American-made Internet video that ridicules Islam.

Lawmakers have been demanding tough Pakistani action on the Haqqani network, which the Obama administration formally designated as a terrorist body on Wednesday.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said that he believed a Pakistani attack on the network would occur soon.

A subsidiary of the Taliban and based in the remote North Waziristan region of Pakistan, the Haqqani network is responsible for several attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, including last September's rocket-propelled grenade assault on the US Embassy and NATO headquarters. American officials estimate it has 2,000 to 4,000 fighters and that it maintains close relationships with al-Qaeda.

Khar dismissed the notion that Pakistan had any special responsibility to deal with the Haqqanis, lumping them in with the 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

"We would be happy to send each one of them back and live in peace in Afghanistan," she said. But she refused to say whether her government would be willing in its three-way talks with the US and Afghanistan to commit to taking on the Haqqanis militarily.

The White House declined to comment on the counter terrorism talks, but US officials familiar with the developments saw cause for optimism in the upcoming negotiations, which were worked out by President Barack Obama's chief Afghanistan and Pakistan advisers, Marc Grossman and Doug Lute, as well as Pentagon envoy Peter Lavoy, in a meeting last week with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief Gen.
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