Secretary Clinton's Remarks on Pakistan Misread in Pakistan

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced $100 million USD in humanitarian support for Pakistan's emerging IDP crisis that involves somewhere north of 1.5 million people and perhaps as many as 2 million. In the question and answer portion, she said this:

QUESTION: What assurance do you have that our assistance will not go to expand their nuclear power and arsenal? And what brought it center stage? We've been helping Pakistan for years and years and years, poured a lot of money into it. Why now -- I mean, I don't say why now -- I know the challenge of extremists. But what is it that that has been broken down?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first I have to say how honored I was to share the podium and the stage with Helen Thomas last week at the NYU graduation ceremonies -- (laughter) -- where we were both given honorary degrees, and in Yankee Stadium, which was a pretty exciting experience.

You know, Helen, I think that it is fair to say that our policy toward Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent. I don't know any other word to use. We came in in the '80s and helped to build up the Mujahideen to take on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis were our partners in that. Their security service and their military were encouraged and funded by the United States to create the Mujahideen in order to go after the Soviet invasion and occupation.

The Soviet Union fell in 1989, and we basically said, thank you very much; we had all kinds of problems in terms of sanctions being imposed on the Pakistanis. Their democracy was not secure and was constantly at risk of and often being overtaken by the military, which stepped in when it appeared that democracy could not work.

And so I think that when we ask that question it is fair to apportion responsibility to the Pakistanis, but it's also fair to ask ourselves what have we done and how have we done it over all of these years, and what role do we play in the situation that the Pakistanis currently confront.

I believe that what President Obama is doing with our new approach toward Pakistan is qualitatively different than anything that has been tried before. It basically says we support the democratically elected government, but we have to have a relationship where we are very clear and transparent with one another; where we have the kind of honest exchanges that have come out of our trilateral meetings, where we're sitting across the table and we're saying, what do you intend to do about what we view as an extremist threat to your country, which by the way, also threatens us.

And so in the last week I think we've seen an answer, which is very encouraging. And, therefore, it is our responsibility to support the democratically elected government, to be a source of advice and counsel where requested, but also to step in with aid that can try to make this government as successful as possible in delivering results for the people of Pakistan. That's what we are engaged in.

Now, we're doing this because we believe that the future of Pakistan is extremely important to the security of the United States. If we did not believe that I wouldn't be standing here, the President would not be directing us.

QUESTION: Why do you believe that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we think that the advance of extremism is a threat to our security; that al Qaeda and their extremist allies are intent upon attacking not only our friends and allies in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, but our homeland and American citizens and interests around the world. And as the President has said, our goal, coming out of our strategic review of Afghanistan and Pakistan, was to defeat and disrupt and dismantle the al Qaeda network.

We have seen al Qaeda driven out of Afghanistan to find refuge in the mountains of Pakistan. I don't think anyone doubts their continuing efforts to plot against us. They have not given up on their desire to inflict damage, harm and murder on the United States of America. That is how we in this administration view the threat coming from al Qaeda and their allies. We have walked away from Pakistan before, with consequences that have not been in the best interests of our security, and we are determined that we're going to forge a partnership with the people of Pakistan and their democratically elected government against extremism -- and that's what we're pursuing.

What the Secretary of State omits about our 'incoherent' policy towards Pakistan was that beginning in 1985, Pakistan chose to defy the world community and begin developing nuclear weapons setting Washington and Islamabad on a collision course. Furthermore, the Secretary seems to have forgotten the role that Pakistan played in the 1988 uprising in Kashmir or that Pakistan's ISI controlled all the funding for Afghan Mujahideen. The United States provided the funds which were matched by the Saudis and the Pakistanis dispersed them to whom pleased them. Pakistan, then as now, was a rogue state supporting jihad in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Kashmir and the Horn of Africa. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the role of the Pakistani state in the BCCI scandal. Our policy towards Pakistan was not incoherent.

I bring this up because the Pakistani media is portraying these remarks with the following headlines: US wronged Pakistan for 30 years, admits Hillary and US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan: Clinton. We are being take for a ride by Pakistan.

Tags: Geo-Politics, pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Foreign Policy (all tags)



Not So Sure

The catalog of misquotes, rumours cited as fact and colourful imbecilities in the Pakistani press is immense but I'm not sure they are misreading this one completely.  When you consider the history of US active mismanagement of Pakistani relations, from Ayub Khan through Zia, not to mention the execution of the elder Bhutto and complicity in the institutionalisation of the military I think Hillary's remarks are a watershed of honesty and 'incoherent' is an understatement.  Perhaps 'US wronged Pakistan for thirty years' isn't so far off the mark,  I make it forty.

My reading is that this is a tacit addmission of failure of our long-standing policy of leaning toward military dictatorship in Pakistan for the sake of our regional machinations and it is long overdue.  It seems a hint that we are actually going to stand by their elected civilian leadership this time and a signal to the generals to watch themselves.

As for the Pakistani media they are endlessly entertaining and if they reported the world was flat I wouldn't be surprised.  It's a 'free press' allright, but they have reported, for example, that India and we are arming the Taliban in the same piece in which they complain that we are illegitimately blowing the Taliban up from within Pakistan's sovereign airspace.  Does that make any sense whatsoever?  It's entertaining but I don't think the Pakistani people take it any more seriously than we should.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-20 12:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Not So Sure

I do agree that Secy Clinton's remarks are a watershed in honesty.  But there were 2 parts to what she said: (a) the Pakistanis have a lot of guilt & (b) but we cannot harp on the Pakistanis role because we have been guilty as well.

The Pakistani reaction has been fairly dishonest in that they focus on the US admission of guilt, and (by implication) absolve themselves of any blame.

I would have been fine with their reaction if they had said the following: (a) US admits guilt & (b) we are not in a position to point fingers at the US because we are even more guilty.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-20 08:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Not So Sure

That's a fair point and an ideal reading of her remarks.  Frankly I am more curious as to the underlying strategy she has adopted, which seems sound to me.  It kinda' recants support for the dictatorships, don't you think?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-20 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Not So Sure

I do agree that Pres. Obama's policy appears to be a strong support of the current democratic government.

However, Secy Clinton's remarks does not appear to be focused on that aspect.  Specifically, she talked about the previous 30 years, which presumably includes the 8 years of the Clinton administration.

And Pres. Clinton was very strongly pro-democracy, going to the extent of publicly wagging his finger at Musharraf, and scolding him, on Pakistani TV... during a brief (and insulting) stopover at an airport in Pakistan on his way home from India.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-20 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Not So Sure

I still think her remarks were a thinly veiled reference to the ill-advised support for dictatorship in the past and a hint of change in that respect.  The Clinton administration's indignation over the Musharraf coup was a consequnce of perhaps the only occasion in which we backed an elected leader over a general, and Sharif himself was a creature of the Zia regime in the first place.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-20 02:13PM | 0 recs
The policy

was not incoherent. You're overlooking the fact that Pakistan has aided and abetted terrorism in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Algeria, Somalia, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan. We cut off aid to Pakistan based on their support for terrorist groups including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Pakistan's role as a rogue state is being overlooked.

Nor was our US policy tied to support of military governments. Frankly the Bhutto and Sharif governments were as much responsible for Pakistani support for terror organizations as Zia or Mushraff.

My argument is that Pakistan's behaivour hasn't changed because the legacy of the Zia al-Hug government has been a creeping Islamization of Pakistan's army and its state institutions that have ultimately tied Pakistani policy to the world jihadist movement. To support Pakistan is to support jihad.

No doubt, the Pakistani state is trying to reign in a few radical groups that has escaped its control but that does not mean that Pakistan has ceased to support groups like Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam or Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Shaun, I respect your opinions immensely but I urge you to hold the Pakistanis accountable for their own actions. I know that there is no easy solution but giving them a lifeline now is not, I think, in the global interest of peace. Zardari, Sharif, Gulani, General Ashfaq Parvez are no different than their predecessors. These are evil and corrupt men.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-20 08:43PM | 0 recs
Re: The policy

There's very little you have said I don't completely agree with and I respect your point of view immensely as well.  As I said we agree on just about everything save our respective conclusions.  And the risk of sounding like an apologist for Pakistan's historical inequities, tyranny and egregious feudalism makes me increasingly uncomfortable.  As for 'incoherent,' it strikes me as an euphemism for coincidence of our policy interests with those of Pakistan's rogue leadership, civilian or military.  We have supported tyranny on grounds of anti-Communism, regional stability or apprehension at the prospect of a genuinely populist democractic government, using jihadist tendancies when it suited our purposes, only suspending this support in periods when our attention was distracted elsewhere.  Rarely, if ever, was our engagement with Pakistan cognisant of the aspirations or condition of the bulk of her population.

Your argument, though well-informed, perhaps overlooks in turn that we were instrumental in installing Zia and countenancing his Islamic zealotry:

The groups that have paralyzed the country for two decades were the creation of the late General Zia-ul-Haq, who received political, military and finincial support from the United States and Britain throughout his eleven years as dictator of Pakistan.

Tariq Ali - The Clash of Fundamentalisms Verso 2002

We agree about Zia it's just a matter of connecting the dots back to Foggy Bottom and the White House.  I think the only difference we have is that it seems to me that pulling the rug out from under Pakistan just now, and I am thinking of the best interests of her people, not her leaders, seems inopportune.  Especially when they seem to be rousing themselves out of three decades of stupor at the urging of an arguably progressive and proactive US administration with a challenging international agenda.

I don't know what alternative to 'giving them a lifeline' you propose but the Balkanisation of Pakistan, a diverse nation of 172M people, seems a daunting prospect.  You may have noticed that Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam and Lashkar-e-Taiba are increasingly marginalised as populist political alliances are being reforged and even PML-N has made tacit signs of co-operation within the current coalition.  I hold the corrupt and venal leaders of Pakistan responsible for their actions but seek neither to reward or punish them in favour of holding the federation of Pakistan to it's founding principles for the sake of it's many peoples.  The time may come, as you say, to declare Pakistan as 'failed,' and abandon them to their fate but I don't think we're quite there yet.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-20 10:17PM | 0 recs
Re: The policy

It is amusing how much we concur and yet arrive at opposite conclusions.

More later.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-20 10:49PM | 0 recs
Someone else named Clinton was involved

Was Sec. Clinton asked about our policy towards Pakistan under former President Clinton?  I'd be curious to know whether she thinks our policy towards Pakistan from 1993-2000 was incoherent.

by RT 2009-05-20 05:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Secretary Clinton's Remarks on Pakistan Misrea

Clinton was referring to the US support of dictators over democracy in Pakistan.  That is one thing that is incoherent.  The other is the large amount of money Reagan used to train fundamentalists in "terrorist" tactics.  The intent was to force the Soviets out, but the long term result is blowback to the US.  These are the same fundamentalists that the US is now fighting.  

Reagan was an idiot.

by bakho 2009-05-20 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Secretary Clinton's Remarks

$10 bn to prop up the military dicatatorship in the past 8 years was totally incoherent.

by bakho 2009-05-20 04:29PM | 0 recs


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