US President Barack Obama and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency both reacted with skepticism about the prospects for an Afghanistan peace deal pushed by Pakistan between the Afghan government and some Taliban militants.
ISI, Karzai and Haqqani met
Nothwithstanding US objections, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has reportedly held a face-to-face meeting with the Haqqani network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani to push forward the reconciliation effort.
Al-Jazeera television channel quoted sources as saying that Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Shuja Pasha had accompanied Haqqani to the meeting, which took place earlier this week.
However, both Karzai’s office and the Pakistan Army have denied any such meeting having taken place.
While Obama said a political solution to the conflict was necessary and suggested elements of the Taliban insurgency could be part of negotiations, he said any such effort must be viewed with caution.
The CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, was even more forceful in expressing his doubts. "We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaeda, where they would really try to become part of that society," he said on ABC's This Week.
Obama, speaking later after the Group of 20 meeting in Toronto, noted that as the Afghanistan war approached its 10th anniversary, it was the longest foreign war in American history, and that "ultimately as was true in Iraq, so will be true in Afghanistan, we will have to have a political solution."
As for Pakistan's effort to broker talks, Obama added: "I think it's too early to tell. I think we have to view these efforts with skepticism but also with openness. The Taliban is a blend of hardcore ideologues, tribal leaders, kids that basically sign up because it's the best job available to them. Not all of them are going to be thinking the same way about the Afghan government, about the future of Afghanistan. And so we're going to have to sort through how these talks take place."