Clinton: Killing won't stop Taliban peace efforts

AP News
Posted: Sep 22, 2011 4:17 PM
Clinton: Killing won't stop Taliban peace efforts

The United States and Afghanistan's government will continue peace outreach to the Taliban following the assassination of the Afghan statesman leading the effort there, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

Clinton condemned the killing of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani but says the work he did will continue.

"We have always known there are those who will do all they can to undermine the cause of peace and reconciliation and we will surely see more violence before this is over," Clinton said, but added she is confident Afghanistan and its international backers will not drop support for the country or the Afghan High Peace Council, which Rabbani led.

She spoke at an Afghan economic development event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

The U.S. backs reconciliation between Afghanistan's government and Taliban insurgents. Such a peace deal is seen as key to ending the war and bringing U.S. forces home, even if it involves talks with militants responsible for attacking U.S. forces.

Clinton said the peace outreach, which the U.S. calls political reconciliation, is part of a "political strategy we hope will end the conflict and chart a more peaceful future for the entire region."

Clinton repeated that reconciliation must be based on "clear red lines," which the U.S. has previously said include renouncing violence.

Rabbani's death Tuesday was a setback to the peace effort, as was a lengthy rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul earlier this month. The outreach is complicated and multilayered, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai pursuing one track while U.S. envoys directly met with a Taliban envoy earlier this year. Next-door Pakistan's support for any eventual deal is key, ini part because militants attacking Afghan and U.S. forces in Afghanistan rest and rearm in Pakistan.

The Taliban has not claimed responsibility for Rabbani's death. Spokesmen for the insurgents won't discuss the killing.

But Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, said the killing had been carefully plotted for four months by the Afghan Taliban's governing council known as the Quetta Shura, named after a city in Pakistan.

Karzai told reporters Thursday that Rabbani was killed at home when he went to shake the hand of a man who had billed himself as a Taliban envoy with an important message about peace.

"It was not a peace message. It was a trick," Karzai said.