US, Pakistan Pledge to Cooperate on Afghanistan

Washington, Sep 22 (IANS): The US and Pakistan have pledged to work together to confront challenges facing Afghanistan.

"We face a common threat from a common enemy, and we must confront terrorism and extremism together," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters prior to her meeting Friday with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, reported Xinhua.

"Earlier this month, I designated the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization so we could make full use of every available legal authority to end their deadly attacks," she said.

Washington looks to Pakistan for help as it is seeking a solution to the decade-old war in Afghanistan and has been pressing the South Asian nation to flush out the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated group that was accused of launching deadly attacks on American and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, and other militants on its soil.

However, relations between the two countries hit an all-time low following a string of events, including the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in a clandestine US raid in May last year.

And the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border NATO air strike in November 2011 prompted Pakistan to close all supply routes into Afghanistan. The ban was lifted only in early July.

Other thorny issues like US drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan remain unresolved, despite Islamabad's insistence that the move infringes upon its sovereignty and fans anti-American sentiment in the country.

Acknowledging the past 18 "challenging" months, Clinton said: "We know that there is still much to be done, but I can assure the people of Pakistan that the United States remains committed to this important relationship and we are confident we can continue to move forward together one step at a time to reach our shared strategic objectives."

On her part, the Pakistani foreign minister said Islamabad and Washington face a common challenge in Afghanistan.

"Perhaps today the strongest convergence of interests that we have is not in any of these bilateral tracks but in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan today represents a common challenge to both the countries," she said.

"We are concerned of some of the infiltration which is coming from Afghanistan inside Pakistan, we are also concerned about the security situation," Khar added.

Khar believed that the two countries have a "unique opportunity" today to work together to ensure "there is no security vacuum left in Afghanistan", and that "the Afghan people are able to decide for their own future and live as a sovereign, independent country which is a source of stability and peace in the region for the next 30 years".


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