U.S. Reached Out to Haqqani Terrorists, Clinton Says

The Obama administration has reached out to the Haqqani network, the terror group based in Pakistan that is blamed for a string of attacks in Afghanistan, including the assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed today.

“We have reached out to the Taliban, we have reached out to the Haqqani network to test their willingness and their sincerity. And we are now working among us — Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States — to try to put together a process that would sequence us toward an actual negotiation,” Clinton told reporters in Islamabad. Clinton is in Pakistan and pressing Pakistan’s government to do more to crack down on terror groups like the Haqqanis.

The meetings were first reported by the Associated Press in August, but Clinton is the first U.S. official to acknowledge the meeting publicly.

She said the meeting was arranged by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service, which the U.S. has accused of colluding with terror groups, and was only “preliminary” to see if the Haqqanis were interested in talks. 

“We had one preliminary meeting to essentially just see if they would show up for even a preliminary meeting,” Clinton said, adding that no negotiations are ongoing.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, later told reporters traveling with Clinton that the message during that meeting was clear: that the door is open to militants who want to meet conditions for peace, but that the U.S. was also prepared to fight. The meeting took place last summer before the September embassy attack and had the support of the Afghan government. The official described the meeting as one of several “straws in the wind” to determine how to develop a political resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Clinton is in Pakistan with CIA Director David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey to deliver a tough, unified message to Pakistan to crack down on militants operating within their borders.

Clinton told reporters today that her two days of meetings in Pakistan have “done a lot to clear the air” and said that the relationship between the military and intelligence agencies are “back on the right trajectory.”

“We’re 90 to 95 percent on the same page,” Clinton said, adding quickly that they’re still working on the rest.

“I’m feeling very reassured and I think we’re back on the right track,” she added.

The New York Times reported on Friday that Clinton told the Pakistanis that the U.S. is prepared take unilateral action to go after militants in Pakistan who threatened American lives.