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Closely consulting Pakistan on Afghanistan: Holbrooke

24 November, 2009

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WASHINGTON: US official envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke rejected on Monday Islamabad’s complaint that the US had not consulted Pakistan as closely as it should have on the ongoing policy-making process on Afghanistan.

The US, he said, had consulted ‘no other country more closely than Pakistan’ on this issue because no other country was more directly linked to it.

Answering a question about a report that the Obama administration might be close to reversing its current strategy in Afghanistan as it was involved in talks with the Taliban, he said the US had not had any direct contact with the Taliban.

Holbrooke said the two sides had an ‘inadvertent’ contact a year ago but that was not really a meeting.

He recalled that in July US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out the conditions for talks with the people fighting the Afghan government. Such elements, he said, needed to renounce their links to Al Qaeda, renounce violence and lay down arms before they could be engaged.

‘Remember, we are in Afghanistan because of 9/11,’ he added. The US envoy refused to comment on a question based on the assumption that the current political situation in Pakistan had weakened the Zardari government.

‘I am not going to comment on the internal affairs of Pakistan,’ he said. ‘We are well aware of the development and we are watching very closely but that’s all I will say.’

Responding to a question about how the US could balance its ties with India and Pakistan when both were suspicious of each other, Holbrooke noted that ‘all Americans were delighted’ with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s current visit to Washington.

`But no one in Pakistan should see this as a diminution of the importance we attach to them,` he said.

The US, he said, was seeking to improve relations with all three countries in the South Asian region, India, Pakistan and China. ‘Every country will benefit from improvement in the area.’

Holbrooke pointed out that fanning differences between India and Pakistan was not justified because the two countries ‘live side by side and have to live together’ and the US wanted to help them both.

Asked if the US would urge India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue, he said it would support them if they decided to resume the talks but Washington was not willing to play the role of a midwife.


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