WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- It is in Pakistan's interest to attend a conference on Afghanistan in Germany, given Pakistan's role in Afghan stability and security, a U.S. official said.
Commenting on Pakistan's decision to stay away from the Bonn conference, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it would be in Pakistan's interest to attend the meeting, which would include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Pakistani decision came in protest of Saturday's NATO border airstrike in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers died. The incident has further stoked anti-U.S. feelings in Pakistan and strained bilateral relations.
Some reports have said Pakistan's decision would be a setback to Washington, which wants Islamabad to play a bigger role in bringing the Taliban to peace negotiations to end the 10-year Afghan conflict as most U.S. are withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2014.
Asked why it would be in Pakistan's interest to attend the meeting, Toner said: "Well again, it's -- Pakistan has a crucial role to play in supporting a secure and stable and prosperous Afghanistan. In some ways, it goes without saying.
"But I mean, it's absolutely critical that Afghanistan's neighbors play a role in its future development. And certainly, Pakistan -- (Afghanistan's) relationship with Pakistan has been critical in that regard."
Toner noted that Pakistan at the recent meeting in Istanbul had pledged support for a strong, prosperous Afghanistan within the region, which he said "was a very important statement."
Toner said 85 nations and 15 international organizations will attend the Bonn conference.
"So while we would like to have Pakistan there, we still think it'll be a valuable opportunity to talk about Afghanistan's future," he said.
He said The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is "vital to our national security interests, to the interests of Afghanistan, as well as to Pakistan's own interests."
Despite the latest developments, Toner said Washington's strategy and approach to Afghanistan remains on track and the Bonn conference will not be delayed or postponed.