Taliban cannot win, should spurn al Qaeda: Clinton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden's death on Monday bolsters the case for the Taliban to abandon al Qaeda and negotiate an end to the Afghan war, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a stance questioned by some analysts.
Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. helicopter raid on a mansion compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, ending a long worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The Taliban sheltered Bin Laden in Afghanistan for years, leading then-President George W. Bush to topple its regime in late 2001 and ushering in a nearly decade-long war between U.S.-led forces and the Islamist group.
Despite the fact bin Laden was found in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, Clinton also defended the U.S. cooperation with Pakistan, saying it helped locate the al Qaeda leader and Washington was committed to the partnership.
"In Afghanistan we will continue taking the fight to al Qaeda and their Taliban allies," Clinton said in a brief appearance at the State Department, saying she hoped they would take note of U.S. determination.
"You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process," she added.
President Barack Obama, who announced that U.S. special forces had killed bin Laden, has planned to begin to begin pulling out some of the 100,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in July despite record violence in the country.
Brian Katulis of Washington's Center for American Progress think tank, which has close ties to the White House, said it was unclear whether bin Laden's death might prompt the Taliban to sever ties with al Qaeda or to seek a political solution.
"Some have argued that elements of the Taliban had already learned their lesson of cooperation with Al Qaeda before bin Laden's death, but the tactical cooperation continues," Katulis wrote in an analytical note.
"I just don't think there are enough data points that are credible to point one way or another -- especially given how fragmented the Taliban has become," he added.
TALIBAN FACE A "BAD MOMENT"
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that his death might influence the Taliban's calculations, but that she would not wish to exaggerate by how much.
"I wouldn't overestimate the impact on what the Taliban will do, although I am quite sure that this is a bad moment for them," she told Reuters. "They have a different dynamic and a different set of interests but, look, this has got to help."
U.S. officials have long believed that safe havens on the Pakistani side of the border have helped the Afghan Taliban.
Some influential U.S. lawmakers took aim at Pakistan, a major recipient of U.S. aid, on Monday, saying that it had many questions about how Pakistan could not have known about bin Laden's presence in the sprawling compound.
Clinton, however, defended the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
"Cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden," she said. "We're committed to this partnership. We think its in the best interests of the security and safety of the United States."
Clinton also said the uprisings that have ousted authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt vitiated bin Laden's ideological appeal because they showed Muslims could improve their lot through peaceful protest rather than violence.
"History will record that bin Laden's death came at a time of great movements toward freedom and democracy, at a time when the people across the Middle East and North Africa are rejecting the extremist narratives and charting a path of peaceful progress," she said. "There is no better rebuke to al Qaeda and its heinous ideology."
(Editing by Jackie Frank)
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