A day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted at the possibility of holding ‘peace talks' with the Haqqani network, CIA-operated drones struck in the organisation's stronghold in North Waziristan on Thursday killing four suspected terrorists including a relative of Sirajuddin Haqqani. The unmanned Predators fired missiles at a compound in a village of Miranshah. Intelligence officials were quoted as saying a Haqqani network coordinator, Jalil was killed in the attack. The morning attack was followed by a second one in the afternoon, this time in adjacent South Waziristan. Three terrorists were reportedly killed in this attack in the Angoor Adda area.
The attacks took place while U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman was in Islamabad for talks after the recent stand-off over Washington's allegations regarding Pakistan's institutional links with terrorism.
While the two countries stressed the importance of bilateral relations, President Asif Ali Zardari called for restraint on both sides in public pronouncements. Referring to Pakistan's sacrifices in fighting terrorism, he said the international community owed it to Pakistan and the region to acknowledge this and support these efforts.
He said terrorists gained the most from verbal assaults and finger-pointing at Pakistan. Asserting that Pakistan's geo-strategic location made it a major stakeholder in regional stability, Mr. Zardari termed Afghan High Peace Council chairman Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination as an attempt to sabotage the peace and reconciliation process.
Expressing surprise at Kabul's reaction in the wake of his assassination, he said despite the negative propaganda, Pakistan would attend the trilateral summit of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey in Istanbul next month.
Meanwhile, even before the drone attacks — the first this month — a senior commander of the Haqqani network was quoted by Reuters as saying Washington was not sincere about peace in Afghanistan when it signalled a willingness to explore a settlement that involves the Haqqanis; held responsible by the U.S. for many of the attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.
According to the commander quoted by Reuters, the Haqqanis saw the remarks as an attempt to divide Afghan insurgent groups and believed only the top leaders of the Taliban should negotiate. “We have rejected many such offers from the United States in the past and reject this new offer as we are not authorised to decide the future of Afghanistan.''