The trust deficit has surged after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three day tour of Pakistan, the response to which was lukewarm at best. Interviews with diplomatic sources in Washington, D.C. and media coverage of Clinton’s visit demonstrate growing frustration with the Obama administration, which may result in a reassessment of its Pakistani interlocutor.
Although American officials publicly praise military operation in South Waziristan, in private they sing a different tune; their assessment of ”alignment” is rather pessimistic. Stories leaked to media consistently allege that al-Qaeda leadership is still enjoying safe haven in Pakistan.
American TV networks looped a statement by Secretary Clinton’s over and over, which almost accused Pakistan’s government of providing this protection to al-Qaeda leadership.”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,” Mrs. Clinton told a gathering of Pakistani newspaper editors. This statement reflects the best possible opinion of Pakistan available in Washington, D.C.; other government sources and media influencers confidently contend that the Pakistani establishment is protecting al-Qaeda.
Clinton’s statement may have been a justified expression of frustration with an ally that has not delivered adequate results. But Pakistanis are equally disappointed with the United States and for the first time in six decades are demanding accountability.
In a very condescending act of “tough love diplomacy,” the White House backed the Secretary Clinton’s blunt statement, questioning Pakistan’s willingness to hunt down al-Qaeda terrorists even as it moves against other extremist groups in its tribal areas.
When asked if Secretary Clinton’s remarks were ”appropriate,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today: “Obviously the United States has great concern about extremists in Pakistan. And we will continue to — continue to discuss with them what can be done. And those remarks were appropriate.”
A section of the American media is commending Secretary Clinton for taking the gloves off and delivering a no-holds-barred message to Pakistan that it must step up its efforts to apprehend al-Qaeda terrorists and demonstrate a real commitment to democracy. Those who support her directness argue that this gives Pakistan’s leaders a much-needed dose of reality.
Pakistan-U.S. relations have not been this tenuous before, and the Obama administration is frustrated with the outcome of the Kerry-Lugar bill. “No one had anticipated such negativity,” said an American official who did not want to be identified. “We thought Pakistanis [would] celebrate the passage of this bill. This is what we were told by representatives of Pakistani government.”
Pakistani government representatives from President Zardari to Foreign Minister Qureshi and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani further down the chain assured Americans that Pakistanis would be jubilant; KLB was suppose to heal all wounds, rectify all wrongs and erase memories of the past from the consciousness of the masses.
I remember when President Obama announced the Senate had passed Kerry-Lugar bill at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in September. Attendees cheered so loud we could hear the thunderous applause from outside.
Later that same day, Richard Holbrooke told Pakistani journalists at the Roosevelt Hotel’s media center that the House will approve the bill within a week. A Pakistani anchor who was visiting with President Zardari screamed “Insha Allah” so loudly it was embarrassing. She acted like a bagger waiting for alms.
But as we have subsequently learned, Pakistanis are inherently anti-imperialist and if the Pakistani army can find a leader like Chavez, everything could change overnight.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill’s failure has been the Obama administration’s biggest setback thus far; its development has been very similar to what happened in Iraq.
In 2003 Americans were expecting roses as they walked victoriously into Baghdad. They thought the Iraqis would welcome freedom from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. Bush’s administration did not anticipate the scale and speed of hostility so soon after the fall of Saddam’s regime.
During her trip, Secretary Clinton repeatedly said the U.S. wants to partner with Pakistan on more than just the military front, but qualified that statement by saying the government in Islamabad will have to be America’s partner in tracking down and capturing the terrorists who masterminded the September 11 attacks, among so many others throughout the world.
Clinton herself defended the bluntness of her remarks in an interview Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying, “Trust is a two-way street. There is trust deficit.”
She is absolutely right. Americans will not so easily believe Zaradari, Qureshi and Haqqani’s words in the future.
American analysts are asking President Obama to drop the “democracy” mantra and work directly with Pakistan’s army. Obama is also being asked to provide economic support and help strengthen Pakistan’s civil institutions simultaneously conveying an inflexible and clear message that there are no free lunches.
Pakistanis have options too: They can storm, form, norm and perform. After venting frustration over KLB and drone attacks they must normalize and start delivering what America wants.
Or they can find a left-leaning leader within Pakistan’s army and bring about peaceful and secular revolution without foreign aid.
The third and easiest option, to maintain the status-quo, letting Mullahs and extremists take over our lives, is NOT an option.