Clinton Scolds Pakistan Over Inaction On Al-Qaeda
October 30, 2009
(RFE/RL) -- This trip was meant to turn a new page in the often uneasy relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her three-day visit to try and bolster the civilian government and counter rising anti-American sentiment.
On October 28, she had warm words for Pakistan's military, engaged in what Clinton called its "courageous fight" against militants inside the country.
But a day later her tone changed to one of rebuke.
In a meeting with Pakistani journalists in the eastern city of Lahore, Clinton said Islamabad could do more in the hunt for Al-Qaeda, and she suggested officials knew where Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders were hiding.
"Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she said. "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. Maybe that's the case; maybe they're not gettable. I don't know.... As far as we know, they are in Pakistan."
Tensions With U.S.
Clinton's comments come at a sensitive moment.
Pakistan is in the midst of a major offensive in South Waziristan, an area near the Afghan border where the Pakistani Taliban is based and believed to shelter Al-Qaeda. And there's been a wave of deadly attacks by militants.
The latest came just hours after Clinton arrived in Pakistan on October 28, when a massive car bomb ripped through a crowded market in northwestern Peshawar, killing more than 100 people.
There is also unease about U.S. demands on Pakistan.
At a meeting with Clinton on October 29, one Lahore student suggested Washington was forcing Pakistan to use military force on its own territory.
Another sensitive issue is missile attacks against militants that are believed to be carried out by U.S. drones.
And there have been tensions over a U.S. aid package worth $7.5 billion, which some Pakistanis say contains conditions violating the country's constitution.
'Not Our War'
On the streets of Islamabad, there were mixed views. A businessman on his way to work says the United States owed Pakistan because it was fighting a war of the United States' making.
"The army is fighting on the border; the army is toiling; the army is getting martyred. We are fighting against our own people. It is their [U.S.] war that we are fighting, it is not our own war," he says.
"They [the United States] should give us money. They should give money to our armed forces so they can use it."
But a local doctor takes a different view. "The solution to our problems lies with our nation," he says. "We need to change our institutions, our policies. Neither our armed forces, nor our nation, nor our country, can become better with money and alms from outside."
Clinton has been wrapping up her visit on October 30 with a series of meetings with tribal leaders, women's groups, and lawmakers.
She is then scheduled to fly to Abu Dhabi and Israel for talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
with news agency content
Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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