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Friday
Oct302009

Secy Clinton Lives & Gives a Reality Check in Pakistan

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures as she speaks with Pakistani elders in Islamabad on October 30, 2009. – AFP American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves Pakistan with a “respectful antagonism” in her wake.

Just across the newswires, are formal details of funds released against a $1 billion promise of US aid, pledged for Pakistan at the Tokyo Donor’s Conference in April. See details.

Huma Yusuf writing for the Christian Science Monitor says that In Pakistan, Clinton fails to charm professional women in a Friday female-focused, The View-style presentation.

“Frankly, it was a waste of my time,” said one assistant professor from the Fatima Jinnah Women’s University (FJWU) in Rawalpindi, who asked not to be named. “[Clinton] wasn’t interested in hearing the about the layman’s problems or the reality of our daily lives.”

That caused many, such as Shazia Marri, the information minister of the Sindh province, to leave the meeting frustrated that their concerns were not heard. “Emancipated women in Pakistan have a clear point of view that did not come across,” she said. via Christian Science Monitor

Security issues ran high on the Pakistani list of grievances during the entire visit— especially US drone attacks. The American military argues the attacks have been more effective than the Pakistani military in reducing what most agree is an expanding Taliban and al-Qaeda presence in Pakistan.

In the ‘women’s meeting’ with several prominent female TV anchors, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to ‘executions without trial’ for those killed.

Another woman asked Secretary Clinton is she considers drone attacks and bombings like the one that killed more than 100 mostly-women civilians in the city of Pshawar earlier this week to both be acts of terrorism.

‘No, I do not,’ Clinton replied. via Dawn.com

Another woman Sana Bucha of Geo TV said to the Secretary: ‘It is not our war,’ she told Clinton. ‘It is your war.’ She drew a burst of applause when she added, ‘You had one 9/11. We are having daily 9/11s in Pakistan.’ via Dawn.com

Summarizing various news media, it seems that Mrs. Clinton does get credit for seeking a personal connection with Pakistanis on their own issues, while meeting more direct confrontation on US commitment to Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton ruffled more than a few feathers earlier in the trip, responding to aggressive questioning, with an unusually candid commentary about Pakistan’s alleged lack of effort to seize senior al-Qaeda leaders hiding in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan and borders Afghanistan.

“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and could not get them if they really wanted to,” the US Secretary of State told a group of Pakistani newspaper editors. via London Times

While she sought to soften her tone just a bit on Friday, Secretary Clinton said: 

‘Trust is a two-way street. There is trust deficit,’ she said.

‘It will not be sufficient to achieve the level of security that Pakistanis deserve if we don’t go after those who are still threatening not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. And we wanted to put that on the table. And I think it was important that we did.’ via Dawn.com

Secretary Clinton left for Abu Dhabi and a meeting on Saturday with Palestinian Authority President Majmoud Abbas, about jumpstarting for the ‘nth’ time the Israeil and Palestinian peace talks.

Obama administration envoy George Mitchell is in Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautiously endorsed American-backed efforts to work out an arrangement with Iran on nuclear power. Mitchell will join Secretary Clinton for talks with Abbas, and both officials will return to Jerusalem for talks on Sunday. via NYTimes

It’s not clear that Abbas is interested in resuming negotiations, considering the atmosphere created by the Goldstone commission report that accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza and criticism of Abbas’s initial response, viewed as too pro-Western. Now Abbas may wait, until the United States and the international community begins pressuring Israel, news reports said.

Abbas demands a total settlement freeze in the West Bank as a condition to the renewal of negotiations while Netanyahu has agreed only to a temporary freeze on new housing starts, excluding Jerusalem and the 3,000 currently under construction, the Post said.

In response to the Goldstone Report, 32 US senators signed a letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging the Obama administration to block any punitive measures against Israel,  says the Jerusalem Post.

An emerging theme in these reports and in some very heated personal exchanges that I’ve experienced with Middle Eastern nationals here at A of C,  is the growing idea that any drone civilian casualty is also an act of terrorism by the US.

A move to brand Americans as “equal terrorists” is gaining significant traction in the Middle East and Asia. Fairly, people ask why they must die so that we don’t have another Sept. 11.

The accusations become even more concernful and potentially legitimate when America is viewed as not having an effective strategy in the region that brings results. Within reason, the positions on all sides require a lot of listening and creative thinking about priorities in America’s strategy.  Anne

 

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