U.S. open to Afghan peace deal including Haqqani

Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:50pm EDT
 
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By Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday signaled the United States remains open to exploring a peace deal including the Haqqani network, the militant group that U.S. officials blame for a campaign of high-profile violence that could jeopardize Washington's plans for withdrawing smoothly from Afghanistan.

"Where we are right now is that we view the Haqqanis and other of their ilk as, you know, being adversaries and being very dangerous to Americans, Afghans and coalition members inside Afghanistan, but we are not shutting the door on trying to determine whether there is some path forward," Clinton said when asked whether she believed members of the Haqqani network might reconcile with the Afghan government.

"It's too soon to tell whether any of these groups or any individuals within them are serious," she said in an interview with Reuters.

Inclusion of the Haqqani network in a hoped-for peace deal -- now a chief objective in the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy after a decade of war -- is a controversial idea in Washington.

Officials blame the group for last month's attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and a truck bombing that injured scores of American soldiers.

The State Department is facing heat from Capitol Hill for refraining, at least so far, from officially designating the Haqqani group, which U.S. officials say is based in western Pakistan, as a terrorist organization.

The White House has backed away from assertions from Admiral Mike Mullen, who was the top U.S. military officer until he retired last month, that Pakistani intelligence supported the Haqqani network in the September 13 embassy attack.

But President Barack Obama and others have put their sometimes-ally Pakistan on notice that it must crack down on militants or risk severing a key relationship.   Continued...