South Asia

Hillary Clinton: US held meeting with Haqqani network

Hillary Clinton in Islamabad
Image caption Hillary Clinton is trying to ease tensions between the US and Pakistan

The US has held a meeting with representatives of the Haqqani militant network, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has revealed.

She did not give any details about who was involved or where they met.

But one senior US official said the meeting took place over the summer, before several major attacks against US interests in Afghanistan.

Mrs Clinton has been in talks in Islamabad where she has urged Pakistan to clamp down on the Haqqanis.

She said the US held one preliminary meeting with the Haqqani network "to see if they would show up".

"In fact, the Pakistani government officials helped to facilitate such a meeting," Mrs Clinton told Pakistani journalists.

She added: "We have reached out to the Taliban, we have reached out to the Haqqani network to test their willingness and their sincerity, and we are now working among us - Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States - to try to put together a process that would sequence us toward an actual negotiation."

Reports about such a meeting circulated over the summer but the US refused to confirm them at the time.

Mrs Clinton said the US had reached out to the Taliban and to the Haqqani network to test their sincerity and willingness to engage in a peace process.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, in Islamabad, says a political settlement is key to ending the war in Afghanistan.

A senior US official also said the meeting took place over the summer at the request of Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, who asked the US to give it a chance.

Image caption The US has blamed the recent attack on Kabul's US embassy on the Haqqani network

The meeting took place before two major attacks against US troops in Afghanistan and the US embassy in Kabul.

The attacks were blamed on the Haqqani network.

In September, outgoing US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm Mike Mullen called the Haqqanis a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani intelligence agency, accusing the ISI of directly supporting the militants.

Pakistan has denied supporting militants. Last month, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that his country "will not bow to US pressure" on fighting militancy.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who said more could be achieved with better international co-operation.

"Do safe havens exist? Yes, they do exist [on] both sides," Ms Khar said. "Do we need to co-operate? Yes. We can co-operate more and achieve better results."

Relations between the US and Pakistan are at their lowest point for a decade.

After months of tension Mrs Clinton is heading a high-powered delegation that includes CIA chief David Petraeus and the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey.

Speaking in the Afghan capital Kabul on Thursday, Mrs Clinton called for a new partnership between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight militants, whom she urged to pursue peace. She said Pakistan "must be part of the solution" to the Afghan conflict.