WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said bluntly yesterday that U.S. outreach to gauge the Taliban-linked Haqqani network's interest in peace talks after more than a decade of war was answered with "an attack on our embassy" in Afghanistan.
Testifying before skeptical members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton defended the apparent contradiction of U.S. pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani group, considered a major threat to American forces in Afghanistan, and efforts to engage elements of the network for possible negotiations.
The Obama administration sees a peace deal with the Taliban as critical to ending the war in Afghanistan. Clinton described how the attempt at outreach was largely futile.
"This was done in part because I think the Pakistanis hope to be able to move the Haqqani network toward some kind of peace negotiation, and the answer was an attack on our embassy," Clinton told the committee.
Clinton said Pakistan's intelligence agency asked U.S. officials to meet with a representative of the Haqqani network. Clinton recently confirmed the summer meeting, first reported by The Associated Press.
Then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told Congress last month that the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaida, "acts as a veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence agency. Mullen accused the network of staging an attack against the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on Sept. 13 as well as a truck bombing that wounded 77 American soldiers. He claimed Pakistan's spy agency helped the group.
Meanwhile, two American drone strikes hours apart destroyed a hideout in Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's rugged tribal regions yesterday. A close ally of one of the area's top militant commanders and 10 others were killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said.