Pakistan’s army chief has a point when he says that Afghanistan has to deal with its problems, instead of blaming Islamabad for them, says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.



Her comments, in an interview to Fox News, follow US media reports that the Obama administration is warming up to Islamabad’s idea for holding direct talks with Fata-based Afghan militants.

Secretary Clinton concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan on Friday and according to US media reports the visit has helped Washington better understand Islamabad’s position.

After her talks with Pakistani leaders, Secretary Clinton seemed to acknowledge that “help with a negotiated settlement is perhaps the best the US can hope for from Pakistan”, the US media reported.

The United States, however, has also asked Pakistan to launch a military operation against Afghan militants, particularly the Haqqani network, which it says operates from the country’s tribal belt.

But during a news conference in Islamabad, Secretary Clinton publicly acknowledged direct contacts between US officials and representatives of the Haqqani network.

“This shift in the US stance could give Washington and Islamabad new room to cooperate on ending the Afghan war,” the US media commented.

In her interview with Fox News, Secretary Clinton, when asked to comment on Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s recent statement that instead of blaming Pakistan for all its problems Afghanistan should try to deal with them first, appeared sympathetic to Islamabad’s position on this issue too.

“I think that he is saying it because, to some extent, Pakistan does believe that Afghanistan has to deal with its own problems and that they have problems,” she said.

“I mean, if you’re sitting on the Pakistani side of the border, you say, ‘Look, we’ve lost 30,000 people to terrorism in the last 10 years, so we know what it’s like. We’re trying to deal with the many different forces at work in our society, so don’t blame us for all your problems’.”

She added: “Nobody would be fair to say that all of either problems are anybody else’s fault. There do have to be decisions made in both Pakistan and Afghanistan to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions to deal with the security challenges.”

The United States, she said, was asking the Pakistanis to step up their cooperation in shutting down the safe havens because “it’s very hard to have a successful military campaign if the people you are seeking are constantly moving back across the border”.