Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hillary Clinton's Pakistan Visit: Courageous and Positive

I didn’t come only for happy talk: Hillary By Anwar Iqbal
Dawn, 31 Oct, 2009

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday defended her decision to publicly air America’s grievances against Pakistan, saying that she had not come to the country for ‘happy talk’ alone.

Her three-day trip, which ended on Friday, was aimed at getting frank, open discussions going about the fight against terrorism — and that includes presenting US concerns, Mrs Clinton told CNN.

She stunned Pakistanis on Thursday when she told a gathering in Lahore that she did not trust Pakistan’s version of its engagement with Al Qaeda.

‘Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002. I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,’ she said.

Commenting on her outburst, the New York Times noted: ‘It is extremely rare for an official of Mrs Clinton’s rank to say publicly what American politicians and intelligence officials have said in more guarded ways for years.’

The newspaper also noted that Mrs Clinton’s remarks upset her hosts, ‘who have seen hundreds of their soldiers and civilians killed’ in the war against the terrorists.

‘But the remarks gave voice to the long-time frustration of American officials with what they see as the Pakistani government’s lack of resolve in rooting out not only Al Qaeda, but also the Taliban leadership based in Quetta.’

In her interview with CNN, Mrs Clinton said it is time to ‘clear the air’ with a key US ally. She added: ‘I don’t think the way you deal with negative feelings is to pretend they’re not there.’

‘I think it’s important, if we are going to have the kind of cooperative partnership, that I think is in the best interest of both of our countries, for me to express some of the questions that are on the minds of the American people,’ she said.

In a separate interview with the BBC, the Secretary of State clarified her comments and the US view of the Pakistan government’s commitment to combating militancy.

‘Of course we are very encouraged to see what the government is doing. At the same time, it is just a fact that Al Qaeda had sought refuge in Pakistan after the US and our allies went after them because of the attack on 9/11,’ she said.

‘And we want to encourage everyone, not just the Pakistan government or the military but Pakistani citizens to realise the connection between Al Qaeda and these Taliban extremists who are threatening Pakistan. They are part of a syndicate of terror.’

Secretary Clinton told CNN she was not suggesting that someone inside the Pakistani government might be complicit with Al Qaeda or might be failing to follow through in fighting the terrorist group.

‘No, no,’ she said. ‘What I was responding to is what I have been really doing on this trip, which is there exists a trust deficit, certainly on the part of Pakistanis towards the United States, towards our intentions and our actions. And yet we have so much in common, we face a common threat.

‘We certainly have a common enemy in extremism and terrorism, and so part of what I have been doing is answering every single charge, every question.’

Trust ‘is a two-way street,’ she added. ‘I just want to keep putting on the table that we have some concerns as well. And I think ... that’s the kind of relationship I’m looking to build here.’

Asked whether she had underestimated the level of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, Mrs Clinton said: ‘No, because I’ve been following the research and the polling that’s gone on for a couple of years. I knew that we were inheriting a pretty negative situation that we were going to have to address.’

That’s why she wanted three days in the country, ‘a long trip for a secretary of state,’ she said.

‘I wanted to demonstrate that, look, we are not coming here claiming that everything we’ve done is perfect.’

‘I’ve admitted to mistakes by our country going back in time, but I’ve also reminded people that we’ve been partners and allies from the beginning of Pakistan’s inception as a country.’

‘Pakistan has helped us on several important occasions, and we are very grateful for that. So let’s begin to clear the air here.’

Clinton: Pakistan 'Making Progress' Against Extremists - PBS
EDITORIAL: Is Al Qaeda in Pakistan? - DT
Sceptical university students in Lahore confront Hillary - Dawn
Clinton in Pakistan encounters widespread distrust of U.S. - Los Angeles Times
Hillary Clinton wraps up tough mission in Pakistan - Guardian

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