Posts Tagged ‘ Cameron Munter ’

Obama Refrains From a Formal ‘I’m Sorry’ to Pakistan

By Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti for The New York Times

The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences — at least for now — to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers inNATO airstrikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America’s relationship with Pakistan, administration officials said.

On Monday, Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, told a group of White House officials that a formal video statement from Mr. Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Washington from cratering, administration officials said. The ambassador, speaking by videoconference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible, the officials recounted.

Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

On Wednesday, White House officials said Mr. Obama was unlikely to say anything further on the matter in the coming days.

“The U.S. government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, referring to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, “and we are conducting an investigation into the incident. We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results.”

The American and Pakistani accounts of the NATO strikes vary widely. A former senior American official briefed on the exchange said Wednesday that the airstrikes came in the last 15 to 20 minutes of a running three-hour skirmish, presumably with Taliban fighters on one or both sides of the border. That is at odds with the Pakistani account that its troops were in a two-hour firefight with the Americans.

Pakistan, rejecting the American account, has blocked all NATO logistical supplies that cross the border into Afghanistan, given the Central Intelligence Agency 15 days to vacate the Shamsi air base from which it has run drone strikes into Pakistani tribal areas and announced that it will boycott an international conference on Afghanistan’s security and development next week in Bonn, Germany.

With everything at stake in the relationship with Pakistan, which the United States sees as vital as it plans to exit from Afghanistan, some former Obama administration officials said the president should make public remarks on the border episode, including a formal apology.

“Without some effective measures of defusing this issue, Pakistan will cooperate less rather than more with us, and we won’t be able to achieve our goals in Afghanistan,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department official who specialized in Pakistan.

But David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and the author of “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power,” said Pakistani officials need to understand that in the next year, the Obama administration will be less accommodating to Pakistani sensibilities.

“I do think that it’s important for them to recognize that political dynamics in the United States will lead to a hardening of U.S. positions, and the president will have less and less flexibility to accept the kind of behavior that he has in the past,” Mr. Rothkopf said. “The prognosis for U.S.-Pakistani relations is bleak.”

America’s strained ties with Pakistan have been buffeted by crises this year, from the killing of two Pakistanis by a C.I.A. contractor to the raid inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

The headaches of the relationship have meant that Pakistan has few friends inside the administration. As one former senior United States official who has been briefed on the administration’s recent deliberations put it, “Right now there are no Pakistan friendlies” at the White House.

But the administration desperately needs Pakistan’s cooperation in the American plan to withdraw militarily from Afghanistan by 2014. Several senior American officials have said Pakistani help is essential to persuade the Taliban to negotiate for peace.

Twice recently, the administration has solicited help from Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, to deliver messages to Islamabad to help defuse crises in the relationship.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry was guarded in his comments about the border episode. “We all appreciate how deeply this tragedy has affected the Pakistani people, and we have conveyed our heartfelt condolences through multiple channels,” Mr. Kerry said in an e-mail. “Ultimately, the only way to move the ball forward is to focus on areas where our interests align and where we can really make progress. Our two countries need each other.”

US Links Militant Group to Pakistan Government

As Reported by ABC News

The United States says there is evidence linking the Pakistani government to the militant group that carried out last week’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, claims there are links between the Pakistani government and high-profile terrorist group the Haqqani network.

In blunt comments broadcast by state-run Radio Pakistan, Mr Munter said: “Let me tell you that the attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago that was the work of the Haqqani network,” he said, referring to a deadly miltant attack in on Tuesday.

“There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.

“We have to make sure that we work together to fight terrorism.”

Asked to provide evidence of the link with the Pakistani government, Mr Munter said only “we believe that to be the case”.

The Haqqani network, which is closely allied to the Taliban, has been blamed for several high-profile attacks against Western, Indian and government targets in Afghanistan.

The group is believed to be based in Pakistan but Islamabad has consistently denied links with militant groups.

The US has long urged Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network and suspected the group had support within the Islamabad administration.

Strained ties
Acknowledging that the past year had been tough, Mr Munter urged joint action against terrorism and said that the United States and Pakistan were “fundamentally on the same side”.

But the public comments are a mark of strained ties between the fragile anti-terrorism allies, with relations fractious since the US raid on Pakistani soil that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.

The Haqqani network is thought to have been behind a number of attacks in Afghanistan, where NATO plans a gradual withdrawal of troops after a gruelling 10-year war.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the network, and his son Sirajuddin, who now runs the group, have both been designated “global terrorists” by Washington.

Mr Munter’s remarks follow a warning by US defence secretary Leon Panetta, who said after the Kabul attack that the US would retaliate against Pakistan-based insurgents.

“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis and we’ve made very little progress in that area,” Mr Panetta said Wednesday, a day after the Kabul siege.

“I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. I’ll just let you know that we’re not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on,” he said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned those remarks as “out of line”, saying that “terrorism and militancy is a complex issue”.

US Envoy Upbeat Over Relations With Pakistan

By Phil Ittner for The Voice of America

Relations between the United States and Pakistan in the last few months have been severely strained by a series of events and ongoing disagreements. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan spoke to Voice of America about how he feels things are improving.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said ties between Pakistan and the United States have been far from the best recently, and while there are still differences, there also is room for improvement.

“The issues are still on the plate. We still have to have discussions, but there was a period in February and some parts of March where we just didn’t have good ties. We’ve established a process,” said Munter.

Pakistan is seen by Washington and London as a vital ally in the “war on terror,” and the Pakistani government and army say they remain committed partners 10 years after the Afghan conflict began.

But, relations have been increasingly strained between the two countries.

Bitter disputes over covert CIA activities and drone attacks inside Pakistan, the security situation in neighboring Afghanistan and rising Islamist-led opposition to the presence of foreign forces in the region are fueling the discourse.

Relations also have been frayed since a CIA contractor fatally shot two Pakistani men in the city of Lahore earlier this year. The U.S. said Raymond Davis had diplomatic immunity and acted in self-defense. He was released after victims’ families accepted compensation.

Furthermore, a recent White House report criticized Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign, accusing Islamabad of not doing enough to counter militants in North Waziristan. Pakistan rejected that report.

Munter said that while America may have some advice for their ally, at the end of the day, it is up to the Pakistanis to decide how to proceed.

“Ultimately the decision to bring peace, to bring the authority of the Pakistani leadership to bear in North Waziristan, that’s a decision for Pakistan. We’ve given our advice. Sometimes we may not have been diplomatic about it, but the fact is that’s going to be their decision and we do accept that.”

This diplomatic approach means having confidence that Pakistan will step up its efforts to rout out insurgents in safe havens in the tribal regions. Ultimately the U.S. hopes this will put pressure on certain groups there who plan their attacks on international forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Meeting Pakistanis, U.S. Will Try to Fix Relations

By Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — As Pakistani civilian and military leaders arrive here this week for high-level meetings, the Obama administration will begin trying to mend a relationship badly damaged by the American military’s tough new stance in the region.

Among the sweeteners on the table will be a multiyear security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid — something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5 billion package of nonmilitary aid approved by Congress last year. The administration will also discuss how to channel money to help Pakistan rebuild after its ruinous flood.

But the American gestures come at a time of fraying patience on the part of the Obama administration, and they will carry a familiar warning, a senior American official said: if Pakistan does not intensify its efforts to crack down on militants hiding out in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, or if another terrorist plot against the United States were to emanate from Pakistani soil, the administration would find it hard to persuade Congress or the American public to keep supporting the country.

“Pakistan has taken aggressive action within its own borders. But clearly, this is an ongoing threat and more needs to be done,” the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said Monday. “That will be among the issues talked about.”

The Pakistanis will come with a similarly mixed message. While Pakistan is grateful for the strong American support after the flood, Pakistani officials said, it remains frustrated by what it perceives as the slow pace of economic aid, the lack of access to American markets for Pakistani goods and the administration’s continued lack of sympathy for the country’s confrontation with India.

Other potentially divisive topics are likely to come up, too, including NATO’s role in reconciliation talks between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they are nervous about being left out of any political settlement involving the Taliban.

Still, in a relationship suffused by tension and flare-ups — most recently over a NATO helicopter gunship that accidentally killed three Pakistani soldiers and Pakistan’s subsequent decision to close a supply route into Afghanistan — this regular meeting, known here as the strategic dialogue, serves as a lubricant to keep both countries talking.

At this meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will formally introduce the new American ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter. Mr. Munter, who recently served in Iraq, replaces Anne W. Patterson, who just wrapped up her tour of duty in Islamabad.

“No country has gotten more attention from Secretary Clinton than Pakistan,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s delegation will be led by its foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, but much of the attention will be on another official, the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is viewed by many as the most powerful man in Pakistan.

White House and Pentagon officials said one immediate goal of this meeting was to ease the tensions that led Pakistan to close the border crossing at Torkham, halting NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Officials on both sides said that acrimony from the border flare-up had already receded, soothed by the multiple apologies that American officials made to Pakistan last week.

Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that General Kayani had assured him that Pakistan’s army would tackle the North Waziristan haven, but on Pakistan’s timetable. In an interview, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “Our American partners understand that we have 34,000 troops in North Waziristan. Our soldiers have been engaged in flood relief after history’s worst floods. It is not a question of lack of will.”

The new security pact would have three parts: the sale of American military equipment to Pakistan, a program to allow Pakistani military officers to study at American war colleges and counterinsurgency assistance to Pakistani troops.

Currently, the United States spends about $1.5 billion a year to provide this same assistance, but it is doled out year by year. The new agreement, if endorsed by Congress, would approve a multiyear plan assuring stability and continuity in the programs, although Congress would continue to appropriate the financing on a yearly basis. “This is designed to make our military and security assistance to Pakistan predictable and to signal to them that they can count on us,” said a senior official.

At the last dialogue in Islamabad in July, Mrs. Clinton presented more than $500 million in economic aid, including plans to renovate hospitals, upgrade hydroelectric dams, improve water distribution and help farmers export mangoes. But the floods upended those plans, and officials said they now planned to redirect funds to more urgent needs.

This week’s meeting will also be shadowed by a new eruption of political instability in Pakistan: the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is locked in a confrontation with the Supreme Court over the court’s demand that senior ministers be fired on corruption charges. Analysts said they were less worried about the atmospherics than the underlying differences in perspective. The administration’s public contrition for the cross-border attack has largely resolved that issue, said Daniel S. Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But Mr. Markey said he saw potential friction stemming from the American openness to reconciliation with the Taliban. With the United States facilitating rather than guiding the talks, he said, there could be poor coordination between the Afghans, NATO and others — all of which would rattle the Pakistanis.

“Washington is opening the door to a range of negotiations with groups that it has discouraged Pakistan against working with in the past,” he said. “This sends a mixed signal, and cannot help but encourage hedging on Islamabad’s part.”

Another potential bone of contention is one of President Obama’s nuclear objectives: a global accord to end the production of new nuclear fuel. Pakistan has led the opposition to the accord. And without its agreement, the treaty would be basically useless.

Mr. Qureshi blamed the United States for the situation, saying Washington signed a civilian nuclear accord with India that discriminated against Pakistan. “You have disturbed the nuclear balance,” he said in a recent interview in New York, “and we have been forced to develop a new strategy.”

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