US "extremely gratified" by Pak arrest of Baradar: Holbrooke
press briefing on the upcoming Strategic Dialogue between the Untied States and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the U.S. was extremely gratified that the Pakistani Government has apprehended the number-two person in the Taliban.
His reaction comes shortly on the back of revelations by former UN staff that secret negotiations with the Taliban for greater peace in Afghanistan might have slowed down due to the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Afghan Talibans number two commander.
Mr. Holbrooke said many other militants and groups have been picked up or eliminated, and this is increasing the pressure on the Taliban; he added that this was a good thing for the simplest of reasons: It is good for the military efforts that are underway in Afghanistan.
Mr. Holbrooke was asked about the revelation by former UN Representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide that he was in talks with senior Taliban leaders since last spring and that those talks were shut down after the Pakistani authorities began arresting senior Afghan Taliban leaders like Baradar.
Reacting to the question about revelations by former UN Representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide that he was in talks with senior Taliban leaders since last spring and that those talks were shut down after the Pakistan arrested Baradar, he said, the arrest is not related to the issue that youre addressing. President Karzai has said he wanted a reconciliation program with all Afghans, including people fighting with the Taliban and President Obama has said we support Afghan-led reconciliation, Mr. Holbrooke said.
On the importance of the talks to U.S.-Pakistan relationships Mr. Holbrooke said, It marks a major intensification of our partnership, and we welcome the extremely high caliber delegation which Pakistan is sending. It will be lead, of course, by Foreign Minister Qureshi.. He added that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have long stressed the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship: This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but securitys an important part of it, he said.
Mr. Holbrooke said This strategic dialogue with Pakistan is not at the expense of any other country in the region. Also there would be no question of telling Pakistan what to do militarily in North Waziristan: The Pakistani army, since May of last year, has gone into Swat, where two divisions remain. They have gone into South Waziristan, where an additional number of troops are deployed. They have taken remarkable steps to push back people who threaten their security. What they do in North Waziristan is a decision for them to make.
However a few days ago Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesman at the State Department said in press interaction, Obviously, were talking about Afghanistan, the situation there, the spill-over into the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] and how to really better engage. And in fact, weve seen some successes on that front in recent weeks on terrorism, he added.
In terms of substantively content of the dialogue, Mr. Holbrooke explained that the two countries would talk about our basic core objectives, [including] defeating, destroying al-Qaida; helping the Afghans become self-reliant so they can take care of their own security; strengthening Pakistans ability to with its own security; development; strengthening democratic institutions.
Mr. Holbrooke expressed hope that the next round of Strategic Dialogue would be held in Islamabad within the next six months.