US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday said the Obama Administration is not “cutting and running” from Afghanistan.
“Absolutely not, I want to really stress that,” Ms. Clinton told CNN in an interview when asked if the US was “cutting and running” from Afghanistan.
“Because our analysis of what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan very clearly demonstrates that not only the US, but the international community sort of just said, ‘Okay, job is done, Soviet Union is gone’, and we walked away, leaving a very difficult and increasingly dangerous presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, a drug trade that flourished during that time period.
“There were many problems that we had to take some responsibility for, but we did not,” she said.
Ms. Clinton said that she wants to make clear to people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan that the US was looking for a long-term partnership.
Noting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was within his rights to hold peace talks with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Ms. Clinton said she would be sceptical of such talks.
“I think it’s the right of the president of a sovereign nation to talk with whomever he chooses to talk with. But we would be quite skeptical of the results of any such talks,” Ms. Clinton said.
“We think that there needs to be a distinction between the potential reintegration of a lot of the people who are part of the Taliban but are not the hard core, committed ideological fighters who don’t have allegiance with al-Qaeda,” Ms. Clinton said.
“With respect to reintegrating people off the battlefield, we would want them to renounce al-Qaeda and renounce violence, and be willing to participate peacefully in their society. We think that holds great promise. With the prospect of reconciling with the leadership of the Taliban, we are quite sceptical,” she said.
Given past record of Taliban, Ms. Clinton said she does not have much confidence that any such talks would produce much in the way of positive outcomes.
She emphasised that the US can’t let Afghanistan become a failed state because then Pakistan would be under even greater pressure than it is today from insurgents within its own borders.
“We want to work with Pakistan to be able to root out, capture, and kill the al-Qaeda leadership and their allies. So this really is a regional strategy. It is integrated to be more effective than what we have seen before,” Ms. Clinton said.
She termed the links between the Pak Army and militant groups as “waning days”.
“We know that in the past the Pakistani power structure has seen militant groups as being perhaps useful, but I think those days are waning,” Ms. Clinton said, adding the new kind of syndicate that exists with al-Qaeda at its head poses a danger to Pakistan’s future.