Tough tenure: US ambassador to step down ‘prematurely’

Published: May 9, 2012

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has been determined to improve America’s public image, travelling widely in a bid to meet as many ordinary Pakistanis as possible. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has decided to step down this summer, purportedly due to differences with the Obama administration on how to reset ties with Islamabad.

Munter has been Washington’s man on the diplomatic frontline at a time when relations between the two countries have dramatically worsened, especially over the unilateral raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May and US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Munter, who spent less than two years in Islamabad, is believed to have been in favour of a US apology over the Nato air strikes and an unannounced halt in the drone strikes for the time being.

The Obama administration, however, was not willing to soften its position, delaying the much-anticipated re-engagement between the two countries.

‘Routine affair’

A US embassy spokesperson attempted to downplay the issue saying that the ambassador’s departure was a routine affair.

The spokesman insisted that Munter’s early exit had nothing to do with the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and the United States.

US ambassadors usually serve three-year terms, but in posts considered as tough as Pakistan, they are allowed to serve two years with the option to extend for a third.

Frustrated with CIA, Pentagon

According to AFP, however, people close to the ambassador say he has been frustrated that the CIA and Pentagon call the shots for the United States in Pakistan, and that he feels his job has been to contain the fallout rather than set policy.

Reports of Munter’s differences with the CIA are not new. In August last year, then-CIA station chief in Islamabad clashed during diplomatic negotiations with Munter, who objected to the spy agency’s drone strike. A Pakistani official, who frequently interacted with Munter, told The Express Tribune that the US envoy was making hectic efforts to break the deadlock in the relationship. “[Munter] was quite keen to see both sides show flexibility on certain issues,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

Popular ambassador

Munter arrived in the country in October 2010, after his predecessor Anne Patterson spent more than three years in Pakistan. A US official said the ambassador would be leaving “this summer at the end of his two-year tenure.”

In his talks in Washington, Munter has advocated doing more to repair ties with Pakistan, arguing widespread anti-US sentiment in the country is a sign not of hostility to the US but of disappointment with the results of the relationship.

In Pakistan, he has been determined to improve America’s public image, travelling widely in a bid to meet as many ordinary Pakistanis as possible.

(With additional input from AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Billoo Bhaya
    May 9, 2012 - 6:32AM

    I have heard genuinely good things about Ambassador Munter compared to his predecessors. He genuinely liked Pakistanis and wanted to make things happen but as you say he has been short-circuited by the CIA and Pentagon. Ex-CIA Station Chief Bruce Riedell who is on Obama’s staff has influenced policy making to the detriment of the two countries. Sad about the way things turned out for Mr. Munter.

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  • Disco
    May 9, 2012 - 6:58AM

    If he stood up to the CIA and Pentagon then he was indeed a good ambassador, both for the US and Pakistan

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  • Pakistan
    May 9, 2012 - 7:09AM

    Pakistan is not the only country where military establishment calls the shots..

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  • Ali
    May 9, 2012 - 8:51AM

    Good man !

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  • syed Imran
    May 9, 2012 - 10:46AM

    Any person who cares for the genuine rights of Pakistan including Mr. Munter will not find a soft corner with the American Administration..
    Surely the war in Afghanistan was planned to get Pakistan involved to an extent that for ages it doesn’t recover itself from its effects and to strip it off its nuclear weapons on the plea of being a unstable country prone to terrorism.
    To achieve this aim, surely they want a weak and dependent Pakistan to dictate its policy.

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  • Shyam
    May 9, 2012 - 11:37AM

    @ Pakistan
    Well Tried! Good attempt in trying to drag US down to your level of governance

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  • thoughtful
    May 9, 2012 - 1:12PM

    Ambassadors do not set policies on foreign affairs. If Munter is not in line with the Obama administration it is time for him to go.

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  • Yusuf
    May 9, 2012 - 1:19PM

    Ambassador Munter Showed Great Patience, Committed To Share Goodness Between the People of Pakistan and the American People, Did His Best To Reach Out To Pakistanis In Very Difficult Circumstances. But Why Three Walls Erected In Front Of U.S. Consulate In Karachi Is Beyond Common Perception. The Policy Was To Open Door, Finally Open Again The American Center, Extend Democratic Values, And Ease Travel Between Two Countries. Lets Mend Fences, Join The American Values With The Smiling Pakistanis. Osama is Gone Ring The Bell In Washington Mr. Munter.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    May 9, 2012 - 3:40PM

    Cameron Munter is not the only American ambassadors that love to “rub shoulders” with the people of their host countries. Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Damascus fell out with the Assad regime as he visited Hama last summer and showed the protesters his support. Michael McFaul, the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow complained about being harassed by pro-Kremlin reporters. They were alleged to listen to his private telephone conversations and read his emails after his meetings with anti-Putin activists.

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  • Tariq
    May 9, 2012 - 5:39PM

    The US standards of governance re war on terror are lower than any country in the world. The CIA holds all the cards, Munter should have known that. Being the most powerful military power ever can create some inflexibile hubris which may be the case with US. @Shyam:

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  • butt jee
    May 9, 2012 - 11:13PM

    Unlike our convicted PM this man seems to have some self respect.

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