CHICAGO - The U.S. goal of peace in Afghanistan is firmly shared by Pakistan, but the two nations face hurdles that include anti-American sentiments in Pakistan, the country's ambassador in the United States said on Friday.
"Pakistan and the United States are agreed that reconciliation is something we need to work for," Ambassador Husain Haqqani told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
But there remains the question of whether Afghan insurgents, many of whose hide-outs in Pakistan have long been the source of U.S.-Pakistani tension, are willing negotiators.
"A lot of times the problem is a very small number of people, dedicated and violent, want to impose their will by arms," Haqqani said.
As the Obama administration seeks to bring its troops home and put end to a decade of war in Afghanistan, its nascent efforts to broker a peace deal between insurgents and the Afghan government is playing an increasingly central role.
Yet the bid to find a negotiated settlement highlights the deep fissures in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as U.S. officials accuse Pakistan of indirectly fueling violence in Afghanistan and often undermining Afghan stability.
Pakistanis meanwhile complain they have suffered greatly at the hands of extremists and accuse the United States of overlooking their efforts to contain their militant threat.
Haqqani praised comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a congressional committee on Thursday that the United States was seeking negotiations with Afghan insurgents, while at the same time fighting them on the battlefield.
"Why can't we just talk to these people and get a settlement? Absolutely, we'd love to do it. If you have (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar's address please send him a letter on our behalf to come to the table," Haqqani said.
"The problem is you can't be half engaged in these negotiations. Do the Taliban have a vision of where they want to be? Are they willing to be part of a pluralist Afghanistan in the future?"
He said Pakistan will "do everything to facilitate discussions between all elements of the Taliban that we can reach."
Haqqani derided commentators in the region, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who last week made comments suggesting that his country would side with Pakistan if a military conflict broke out between Islamabad and Washington.
"Pakistan and the United States are not going to war," he said.
"Sometimes people forget there are unresolved issues in Pakistan," he said, citing a societal debate about the role of religion and the nation's decades-long struggle toward democratically elected governments.
"My request to Americans is to be patient with Pakistan," he said. (Reuters)