Holbrooke Presses Pakistan On Haqqani Network

U.S. special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke is on his tenth visit to Pakistan. Holbrooke discussed Afghanistan and U.S. concerns about reconciliation with insurgents there. He says the U.S. is troubled by the al-Qaida affiliated Haqqani network.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Renee Montagne has returned from vacation.

Renee, welcome back.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Thank you, Steve. I'm a little bit rested up, but really glad to be back.

INSKEEP: Good.

MONTAGNE: The United States is working to clarify who it will and will not negotiate with in Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: Those details take on major importance as the U.S. seeks a solution to the Afghan problem. Some Americans have hoped to divide the Taliban. Some Afghans have spoken of a full-blown peace settlement. And any resolution involves the country just across the border: Pakistan.

MONTAGNE: Richard Holbrooke is in the region for talks. He's the American special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Ambassador Holbrooke said the United States was not necessarily against reconciliation with militants in Afghanistan, but is especially troubled by one group: the al-Qaida-affiliated Haqqani Network. The group is led by Sirajuddin Haqqani. He springs from a younger generation of militants whom the U.S. regards as especially brutal.

The Pentagon recently presented Pakistan with evidence that the Haqqani militia had commanded attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan from their base in Pakistan's tribal belt.

While the U.S. has intensified drone missile attacks in the area, Holbrooke said it has pressed Pakistan to target the Haqqani network there, as well.

Ambassador RICHARD HOLBROOKE (U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan): We know that Haqqani group, for example, moves with impunity across that border in a remote area in which the Pakistanis don't have resources. That's a fact.

MCCARTHY: Holbrooke said the U.S. can help Pakistan fill the resource gap.

Amb. HOLBROOKE: We can help them a great deal in such things as night vision goggles, helicopters, spare parts, the less glamorous parts of this.

MCCARTHY: He says the U.S. is delivering four F16's to Pakistan next week. Complicating matters, though, are discussions that Afghanistan and Pakistan have begun in a bid to explore a negotiated end to the Afghan war. One avenue would have Pakistan engaging the Haqqani Network. Holbrooke indicated that could cross some basic U.S. red lines about reconciling warring factions.

Amb. HOLBROOKE: We have some very clear publicly stated criteria, and one is renounce al-Qaida, another is participate voluntarily in the peaceful evolution of Afghanistan within its constitution.

MCCARTHY: The Haqqani's not withstanding, Holbrooke said that does not mean the U.S. is opposed to reconciliation.

Amb. HOLBROOKE: On the contrary, there's been a significant evolution of American policy towards supporting Afghan-led reconciliation efforts.

MCCARTHY: Links between the Pakistani intelligence and Islamist militants have been widely suspected for a long time. Pakistan denies them, and senior Western officials are reluctant to talk publicly on the subject for fear of damaging possible cooperation with Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state.

But a new study by the Rand Corporation released today says while Pakistan has scored some successes against extremists, it remains unclear whether Pakistani leaders have made a systematic break with militant groups. The Rand report also points out that Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing, had help from militants in Pakistan's tribal belt.

Asked about the wider implications of the Shahzad case, Holbrooke suggested that the Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was a product of a very tiny minority.

Amb. HOLBROOKE: He's neither a lone wolf, nor part of a mass movement. Are there other people like that in the American body politick? Without doubt. Is the U.S. government aware of it? Without doubt. Is Pakistan the cause of this? No. It's a larger issue.

MCCARTHY: In the softer line that Washington has adopted, Holbrooke said that Pakistan matters in and of itself, and that Washington recognizes whatever happens next door in Afghanistan, the U.S. cannot turn away from Pakistan as it did in the past.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

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