By Scott Stearns
Foreign ministers from the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan met Sunday on the sidelines of an Afghan donor conference in Japan to discuss cross-border cooperation and security. They called on Taliban fighters to join Afghan reconciliation efforts.
In a joint statement following their talks, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said al-Qaida’s core leadership in the region has been decimated, reducing the threat to peace and security that led the international community to intervene in Afghanistan in 2001.
They are backing an inclusive Afghan reconciliation process “through which individuals and groups break ties with international terrorism, renounce violence, and abide by Afghanistan’s constitution” because they say that is the surest way to lasting security for Afghanistan and the broader region.
Some of the Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are staged from Pakistan, and U.S. officials say they do not believe Pakistan is doing everything it can to prevent those attacks, especially raids carried out by the Haqqani network.
Senior Obama administration officials say Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Khar discussed the Haqqani network in separate talks before the trilateral meeting. It was the first meeting for the two foreign ministers since Pakistan reopened NATO supply lines to Afghanistan that were closed following the killing of 24 Pakistani troops by NATO forces in November.
That route was reopened after Secretary Clinton Tuesday offered her “sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives” saying she and Foreign Minister Khar acknowledged the mistakes that led to the attack in the border town of Salala.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo Sunday, Secretary Clinton says the two countries are moving on.
“We are both encouraged that we’ve been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so that we can focus on the many challenges still ahead of us, and we want to use the positive momentum generated by our recent agreement to take tangible, visible steps on our many shared core interests,” she said.
She says first and foremost is defeating terrorists who threaten Afghan and Pakistani stability as well as the interests of the United States.
“I’ve said many times that this is a challenging but essential relationship,” said Clinton. “It remains so. And I have no reason to believe it will not continue to raise hard questions for us both.”
U.S. officials say there is now the opportunity to get back to closer counter-insurgency cooperation with Pakistan now that the Afghan border is again open to NATO supplies.