Washington gasps at Hillary's charm-el-shake offensive in Islamabad

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Washington gasps at Hillary charm-el-shake offensive that leaves Islamabad stunned


Chidanand Rajghattaa, TNN 30 October 2009, 10:47am IST


WASHINGTON: It was supposed to be a charm offensive, but as the day wore on she put away her charm and went on the offensive. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s public dressing down of Pakistan during a three-day visit there, including virtually accusing the country of complicity with al-Qaida, has shaken Washington as much as it stunned her hosts.

"Her inner voice became her outer voice," Martha Raddatz, a veteran NBC correspondent said on the network, explaining that while many in the administration believed what she said to be true (that Pakistan is coddling terrorists), it was rare for America's top diplomat to say it publicly. Officials in Washington were trying to keep a straight face, but there were a few gasps, she added.

Clinton's blunt remarks came during a pow-wow with half-dozen combative senior Pakistani journalists who harried her about US policy in the region.

"Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she finally asserted when challenged about Washington’s tough prescriptions for Islamabad. "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."

After having publicly doubted the bona fides of her hosts, she added, as an afterthought: "Maybe that's the case; maybe they're not gettable...I don't know. As far as we know, they are in Pakistan." At one point during the exchanges, when a journalist spoke about all the services rendered by Pakistan for the US, Mrs Clinton snapped, "We have also given you billions."

The US Secretary of State also took a swipe at the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies, telling the senior journalists, "If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together" then "there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment." She said she was "more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States'' but the relationship had to be a "two-way street."

Clinton’s caustic comments came even as Pakistani forces recovered the passport of 9/11 plotter Said Bahaji in South Waziristan, underscoring yet another reason for the relentless U.S pressure not to allow al-Qaida and its affiliates to have a safe base there. In US, several terror suspects apprehended by authorities over the years, including a Pakistani-American from Chicago held earlier this month, have said they visited Pakistan’s Fata region to hook up with terrorist handlers.

But Clinton seemed unable to convince her hosts that they were in the ground zero of terrorism. Some Pakistani analysts have argued in the past that 9/11 was essentially a plot hatched in Europe by mostly Saudi nationals. Other wing-nut conspiracy theorists blame US and Israel. But US investigators have pointed to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region as the base for the hijackers and many other terrorist enterprises -- one reason why Washington is insistent on sanitizing the area.

The 9/11 investigations in fact pointed to Mohammed Atta and co., emerging from the area and subsequently receiving money transfers from Pakistan when they moved to the United States. Most terrorist attacks across the world, going back to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, have also been traced to Pakistan, rather than to Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq.

Clinton appeared to get feisty after a meeting with university students in Lahore where she had to entertain several whiny questions about US' treatment of a long-serving ally. "They described a litany of slights, betrayals and misunderstandings that add up to a national narrative of grievance, against which she did her best to push back,'' the New York Times said in its description of the event.

And push back she did. Faced with criticism about what some Pakistanis believe is inadequate US aid, Clinton suggested to a group of Pakistani businessmen that it’s about time the country also learnt to take care of itself instead.

"At the risk of sounding undiplomatic, Pakistan has to have internal investment in your public services and your business opportunities," Clinton said, adding, in a reference to the large-scale tax evasion in the country. ''The percentage of taxes on GDP is among the lowest in the world... We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn’t move, and that’s not what we see in Pakistan."

She then issued a stark warning to the country: ''You do have 180 million people. Your population is projected to be about 300 million. And I don’t know what you’re gonna do with that kind of challenge, unless you start planning right now."

Earlier, at the meeting with students, she essayed a similar warning to a questioner who complained about the US forcing Pakistan to fight a war on its own territory: "If you want to see your territory shrink [by allowing terrorists to expand their space], that’s your choice. But I don’t think that’s the right choice."

Clinton’s remarks rocked Washington on the eve of President Obama’s seventh, and possibly final, review of the Af-Pak strategy, slated for Friday. ''She is challenging them...it is a high-risk strategy,'' Richard Haas, a prominent policy pundit, said in a television interview.

But despite the charm offensive heading into a potential PR disaster, the word in Washington is that Uncle Sam will continue to lavish more guns and butter on Pakistan, as it has done for decades, this time in the name of defeating terrorism. If anything, Pakistan's own angry counter-offensive is poised to yield an even bigger bonanza.


Washington gasps at Hillary charm-el-shake offensive that leaves Islamabad stunned - US - World - The Times of India
 

Flint

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Haha. Rajghatta doesn't mince words when it comes to Pakistan, eh?
 

ppgj

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Hillary Clinton's Plain-Speaking in Pakistan

by B. Raman

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, needs to be complimented for her plain-speaking on Pakistani inaction against Al Qaeda during the course of a public interaction in Lahore during her visit to Pakistan from October 28 to 30, 2009.

2. She expressed in an unmistakable manner US skepticism over the Pakistani sincerity in hunting for the remnants of Al Qaeda which have taken shelter in Pakistani territory. In the past, US officials refrained from giving public expression to this skepticism lest it affect whatever co-operation Pakistan was extending to the US in the search for Al Qaeda remnants.

3. The publicly-expressed US exasperation with Pakistan has to be seen in the light of the fact that after the exit of Pervez Musharraf from office as the President last year, even the co-operation which Pakistan was extending to the US in its search for Al Qaeda leaders seems to have stopped. The Musharraf Government did help the US in the arrest of some important members of Al Qaeda such as Abu Zubaidah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu-Faraj al-Libi and others. Compared to that, since the present elected Government came to office last year, there has been hardly any capture of any notable remnant of Al Qaeda by the Pakistani Security Forces.

4. Of course, the Government of President Asif Ali Zardari has closed its eyes to the increasing strikes by US drones against terrorist hide-outs in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) while making pro forma protests over them in public, but these strikes are increasingly targeted against elements of the Pakistani Taliban, which pose a threat to the Pakistani Army. The Pakistani Army has reasons to be grateful to the US for these strikes which help it in its operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

5. While benefiting from the US action, the present Pakistani Government has failed to reciprocate by extending to the US even the limited co-operation against Al Qaeda that it was getting from the Musharraf Government. Expectations that the coming into office of an elected civilian Government would improve the co-operation against Al Qaeda have been belied so far.

6. The Government of President Barack Obama has been even more generous to the Islamabad Government than the previous Bush Administration in respect of civilian and military assistance, but such assistance has not motivated the Pakistani authorities to change their policy of inaction against Al Qaeda and collusion with the Afghan Taliban and the anti-India jihadi terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET).

7. The Pakistani leaders-----political and military---- and large sections of its civil society think that by virtue of its strategic location Pakistan has a moral right to expect and receive such assistance from the US without any quid pro quo from its side. Unless this Pakistani impression that its strategic location and nuclear capability give it a hold over US policy-making is removed from their mind, the US is unlikely to make any progress against the Afghan Taliban and against Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The bloated impression in the minds of Pakistani leaders that Pakistan is indispensable to US interests in the region has to be removed.

8. Even if one understands the US reluctance under the previous Bush Administration as well as under the Obama Administration to take punitive action against Pakistan, one fails to understand the continuing US propensity to pamper Pakistan with more and more assistance in the fond hope that such pampering could finally make Pakistan act sincerely against Al Qaeda and other terrorists. Hillary Clinton's public expression of the US exasperation has not created any concerns in Pakistani policy-making circles because they are confident that the US will not ultimately act against Pakistan.

9. Plain-speaking alone will not do. The time has come for plain action which will carry the unmistakable message to the Pakistani leaders that it is not as indispensable as they seem to think it is.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: [email protected])

Hillary Clinton's Plain-Speaking in Pakistan
 

sob

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Telling The Truth

This opinion piece appeared in the WSJ and was written by Sumit Ganguly.
This op-ed shows the unease the US has with the links of Pakistani establishment with terror elements and despite all the evidence the reluctance to take the issue with Pakistan.

Break the US silence on Pakistan

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered an especially blunt, if long overdue, message to Pakistan last week. Talking to reporters in Lahore, she said she found it “hard to believe” that local authorities did not know where key members of Al Qaeda had taken refuge. Her message set off another firestorm of criticism from both the government and the Pakistani press.

Though belated, Clinton’s remarks were entirely apt and, one hopes, mark a departure from US policy under former US president George W. Bush and, more recently, under President Barack Obama. Apologists for Pakistan in both administrations argued it was necessary to overlook the country’s unwillingness to be more forthcoming on counterterrorism operations because of the US dependence on Pakistan’s goodwill to supply the international security assistance force in Afghanistan. Though superficially correct, this reasoning overlooks the fact that Pakistan extracts significant rents for the use of its territory for this purpose and has also been the beneficiary of some $11 billion in American largesse over the past eight years.

Pakistan has helped the US seize a number of key Al Qaeda operatives on its soil. Nevertheless, the Pakistani security establishment, especially in recent days, has done little to place the remnants of Al Qaeda under a military anvil. Nor has it shown any willingness to disrupt and dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—two anti-Indian terrorist organizations known to have significant ties to Al Qaeda. Instead Islamabad has relied on every possible subterfuge to protect them, such as asserting that evidence against the two groups is inadequate and placing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s leader under arrests and then releasing him. These organizations have been allowed to thrive despite Indian, US and international pressure.

The security establishment’s dalliance with these terrorist groups and unwillingness to hunt down the remnants of Al Qaeda might seem to be a puzzle. The Pakistani Taliban, which has close links with Al Qaeda, has been wreaking havoc across the country and has attacked key civilian and military targets with impunity in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar. These attacks have shaken many ordinary Pakistanis from their complacency and have contributed to a growing sense of urgency in addressing the country’s domestic security.

But the security establishment’s terrorist links are also logical. For several decades, Pakistan’s security apparatus has cultivated and worked with a host of Islamist militants to pursue its perceived strategic interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir. It remains unwilling to end this partnership. While it has finally mounted a military campaign against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, a loose umbrella group of tribal factions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the security force still believes it is capable of distinguishing among these various Islamist terrorist organizations as friends and foes of the state. More to the point, it remains unwilling to stop using these entities to pursue goals of installing a pliant regime in Afghanistan and sapping Indian resources in Kashmir.

Officials within the Bush and Obama administrations have been aware of these long-standing goals. Nevertheless, to elicit the Pakistani security establishment’s cooperation, however limited, they refrained from blunt, unequivocal public criticism. Now that Clinton has finally broken the deafening silence on the subject, the US needs to sustain the pressure. A high-level US official’s carefully crafted and deftly delivered speech can serve as a much-needed wake-up call. But it would be irresponsible on the part of the administration not to follow up this verbal volley with firm actions.

The US needs to hold the Pakistani security establishment to account. Despite the fanfare surrounding the current military operations in the tribal regions, foreign media coverage has been severely restricted. It is thus difficult to assess the vigour with which these operations are being conducted and to measure their effectiveness. Washington could insist on greater transparency to ensure that these operations are yielding meaningful results. This would include arresting and charging key leaders and shutting down their camps at Muridke, just outside Lahore. The administration should simultaneously insist that the Pakistani security forces finally launch an offensive against Lashkar-e-Taiba and not resort to sophistry to downplay its ties to Al Qaeda and its involvement with terror in Kashmir and other parts of India.

A failure to sustain pressure on the Pakistani security establishment would have widespread adverse consequences for the country, for the region and for the US. The costs of home-grown terrorism to Pakistan’s society have been more than apparent the past several weeks. The attack on the United Nations mission in Kabul last week while Clinton was in Islamabad underscored these dangers. Unless sanctuaries these entities have long enjoyed in west Pakistan are finally denied, the US-led effort to stabilize Afghanistan could be in serious jeopardy.
Telling the truth: break US silence on Pakistan - Columns - livemint.com
 

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