The United States has said that it would continue to work with Islamabad in their efforts to fight extremists despite a rare public display of pique by Pakistan's foreign minister at a press conference with two U.S. envoys Tuesday, reports say.
U.S. officials in Washington acknowledged tensions at a meeting in Islamabad between two U.S. interlocutors and Pakistani leadership to discuss security and intelligence issues, but said the Obama administration would continue to work with Pakistan.
Well, for one thing, I don't talk about intelligence issues from here, State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters Wednesday following reports of a tension-filled meetings in Islamabad.
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 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.
Will there be differences of opinion from time to time on how we move forward? Yes. But this is normal in this type of relationship, particularly when you're dealing with very difficult, thorny issues, he added.
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.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael 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.
Denying that Holbrooke was snubbed by the ISI chief, he said the U.S. envoy also had a separate meeting with Pasha in addition to the meeting that he had with Mullen and Kiyani and Pasha.
On U.S. plans 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.
Earlier Tuesday, Pakistani leaders denounced advice by U.S interlocutors to Islamabad that it has to forgo terrorism as a policy option, cut its intelligence agency ISI's ties with the Taliban, stop pandering to an extremist agenda, and submit to an strict audit of foreign aid.
Asked about President Barack Obama's observation during the unveiling of the new Af-Pak policy that there would be no blank checks for Pakistan, Pak foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi retorted that Pakistan would neither accept blank checks nor give them -- a snarky response that is seen as a rejection of U.S. request for joint ground operations in Pakistan to hunt down al-Qaida and Taliban leadership.
Qureshi also publicly denounced U.S. drone attacks at the joint press conference with U.S. interlocutors by his side, bluntly saying the two sides disagreed on the matter and there were certain red lines he had flagged.
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