US downplays differences with Pakistan over extremists

April 9th, 2009 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Washington, April 9 (IANS) Downplaying differences with Pakistan over how to deal with extremists on Afghanistan’s border, the United States says it would continue to work with Islamabad “as best we can to support them in their efforts to fight extremists.”
“Well, for one thing, I don’t talk about intelligence issues from here,” State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters Wednesday when asked to comment about reports of tensions on security and intelligence issue after meetings between two US officials and Pakistani leadership.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen met Pakistani leaders in Islamabad Monday before flying off to New Delhi.

Describing the problems of dealing with extremist elements operating in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on Afghanistan’s border as “a very complex issue,” Wood said: “We want to work with Pakistan and we have been working with Pakistan as best we can to support them in their efforts to fight extremists.”

“We’re going to continue to do so,” he said, but acknowledged, “there be differences of opinion from time to time on how we move forward”. “We do agree on a lot of the ways forward. But this is normal in this type of relationship, particularly when you’re dealing with very difficult, thorny issues.

Holbrooke and Mullen both had very, very good meetings in Pakistan with a number of officials, Wood said. They also “did meet” army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyan and director of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. “And so they were good, very constructive meetings.”

“Are these difficult issues? Yes. Are we going to try to do what we can to work them out? Absolutely,” he said “Because these are - this is a critical issue facing not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the rest of the international community, how we fight these extremists.”

Denying that Holbrooke was snubbed by the ISI chief, he said the US envoy also had a separate meeting with Pasha in addition to the meeting that he had with Mullen and Kiyani and Pasha.

Asked if the US was planning to directly engage the Taliban, he said: “No, look, as we’ve said with regard to engaging - to this whole reconciliation process, this is something that has to be, you know, as we said, Afghan-led.”

The Afghan government, Wood said had been very clear that “they want to talk to those elements that are willing to renounce violence, renounce any affiliation with Al Qaida, and who are willing to recognize Afghanistan’s constitution.”

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