US quiet on Pakistan peace deal with Taliban

While human rights groups and European officials criticise Pakistan's truce with Taliban fighters,the United States has had little to say.

Written by Associated Press | Washington | Published:February 19, 2009 1:27 am

While human rights groups and European officials criticise Pakistan’s truce with Taliban fighters,the United States has had little to say.

The muted response on Tuesday was a sign of an Obama administration wary about weakening an already fragile Government in Islamabad. The US needs that Government in the fight against Islamic militants,including the Taliban,that are using Pakistan to stage attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has sent a hard-line cleric to the violent Swat Valley to negotiate with the Taliban.

British and NATO officials have expressed misgivings about a move they said could give extremists a haven in Pakistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,however,was cautious when speaking to reporters in Japan. She said Pakistan’s efforts still needed to be “thoroughly understood” before she could comment.

“Obviously,we believe that the activity by the extremists in Pakistan poses a direct threat to the Government of Pakistan as well as to the security of the US,Afghanistan and a number of other nations,” Hillary said.

Christine Fair,a South Asia specialist with the RAND Corporation,said,“The real reason for being silent is there’s really no good answer” yet in Washington for what is happening in Pakistan.

“Everyone is sceptical that this is going to work,” Fair said.

At the State Department,spokesman Gordon Duguid,pressed by reporters for the administration’s view of the truce,would say only that US diplomats in Islamabad are “fully engaged” with the Pakistani Government “to find out exactly what their strategy is”.

“As I understand it,Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. So I don’t know that that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss,certainly not from this podium,” Duguid said.

Others have been more critical.

Ali Dayan Hasan,senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch,said peace deals between Pakistan and the Taliban “tend to fail and,in the interim,they tend to strengthen highly regressive,human rights-abusing forces.”

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington said troops would remain “until the militant threat was completely over” and the deal is “conditioned on peace and laying down of arms by militants”.

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