Clinton in Kabul for talks on ‘diplomatic surge’ to end Afghanistan war

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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Afghanistan late Wednesday for talks that a U.S. senior official said were aimed at building on a diplomatic surge to end the war, a senior state department official told travelling media.

“The secretary wants to show our commitment to Afghanistan,” a U.S. official who would not be named told reporters, adding that she would continue her diplomatic efforts “in terms of both transition, standing with Afghanistan and working on a political resolution to the underlying conflict.”

Clinton is due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday and other key political leaders to discuss possible peace talks and the handover of security to Afghan forces.

Her visit follows several high profile attacks in the Afghan capital, including an assault on the U.S. embassy in September and days later the assassination of Karzai’s top peace envoy, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

“She will be continuing the diplomatic effort... in terms of both transition, standing with Afghanistan and working on the political resolution,” said the official, who would not be named.

“Reconciliation post-Rabbani” was on the agenda for discussion, the U.S. official said.

She is expected to discuss U.S. strategic relations with Afghanistan and ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as preview plans for conferences on the future of Afghanistan due to be held in Istanbul in November and Bonn in December.

Ties between Kabul and Islamabad have been particularly strained since the assassination of Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban reconciliation envoy.

Many Afghans, including senior officials, have accused the Pakistan government of having links to the killing, and accused their neighbor of fomenting instability to further its own political interests. Pakistan denies this.

Karzai has been more circumspect, but hinted after the killing that he had lost hope in pursuing peace talks with the Taliban and suggested negotiations with Pakistan instead.

Top U.S. officials accused Pakistan of supporting insurgent groups in Afghanistan after September’s 20-hour attack on diplomatic targets in Kabul, including the U.S. embassy.

Clinton said last week the United States could not abandon Pakistan but if Islamabad did not help solve Afghanistan’s difficulties it would “continue to be part of the problem.”

She has also suggested Washington would remain open to exploring a peace settlement in Afghanistan that includes the Haqqani network, but one of the group’s leaders told Reuters it did not think the United States was sincere about peace.

Clinton’s visit to Kabul follows a visit to Libya where she urged its disparate militias to unite around their new leaders.