‘The US is committed to stay’

Published: October 30, 2010
New US Ambassador Cameron Munter pledges to stick with Pak, Afghanistan.

New US Ambassador Cameron Munter pledges to stick with Pak, Afghanistan.

New US Ambassador Cameron Munter pledges to stick with Pak, Afghanistan. 
Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (C) along with his wife Marilyn Wyatt (centre L) visit the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP Newly-appointed US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (2nd R) and wife Marilyn Wyatt (2nd L) visit the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

A change of face more often than not means a change in strategy. While this may not be apparent in the short while the new United States’ Ambassador to Pakistan has been in the country, there were some hints during his first press conference since he took the post.

Addressing media at the residence of the US Consul-General in Karachi on Friday, Cameron Munter – the US’ new point man in perhaps the most strategically important country in the world currently – said that President Barrack Obama’s policy of pulling out of Afghanistan was being “misinterpreted”.

“We are committed to the success of Afghanistan, as we are to Pakistan,” said the ambassador, adding that there would probably be a “change in face” but not a “withdrawal”.

“We are committed to stay,” he asserted again – not only because the US has promised Afghanistan, but because they have promised Pakistan.

The statement is significant on many counts.

Firstly, there is a very palpable apprehension in Pakistan that, with the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, there will be a shift in Washington’s focus from the region. That would have meant diminishing Pakistan’s strategic importance.

And that takes us back to the 80s, when the US’s intimate ideological alliance came to an abrupt end following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. And with the shifty relations between Washington and Islamabad and the arrival of a new point man, this fear was as real as it gets.

As expected, this question was posed. What about history, Mr Ambassador?

Munter chose to assuage these doubts with evidence, rather than just rhetoric.

He pointed to multi-year programmes that the US has embarked upon in Pakistan. “We don’t have these with all countries – it is unusual.” He added that, even if the US was thinking of a rethink, “We are committed by our legislation.” Referring to the Kerry-Lugar Act and military aid programmes, the Ambassador said that the US has “written it [supporting Pakistan] in our law.”

Effectively, the ambassador’s first speech in Pakistan was laced with assurances – fresh assurances from a new face.

He empahsised that his mission and that of the Obama administration was to, “represent diplomatically, but represent from the heart.” Downplaying differences between Washington and Islamabad, Munter said that the US didn’t expect Pakistan to listen to everything it said. “Friends can disagree.”

He also commented on the constant calls to “do more” – an expression that strikes a sour note in Pakistan. Recognising that the expression was insensitive and curt, he said that the same request can be explained and worded differently. He also spoke of the perceived dislike that Pakistanis have for the US. “I don’t think that the Pakistanis don’t like us – I don’t believe that,” he said, adding that there was instead “healthy scepticism.”

He spoke at length about how the US was looking to engage all sections of Pakistani society, and not just the political leadership. On the issue of the Coalition Support Fund, he said that reimbursement was a long and cumbersome process, but added that the US had committed $700 million at the recently concluded strategic dialogue.

The ambassador said that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and ROZs were also discussed at length during the dialogue. “We’re a little embarrassed because the Europeans are ahead of us [in terms of the FTA]; we like to think we are the dynamic ones.”

He said that US was optimistic about the future of Pakistan, especially Karachi, with its big business and major port. Munter also attached great importance to President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to the US next year, saying that significant progress had been made in each of the 13 working groups. On the power front, he said that the plan to build a 150 MW wind farm in Sindh under private-public partnership will soon be completed.

On the floods, the ambassador said that the US was committed to helping Pakistan, pointing out that US flood relief efforts had delivered over 20 million pounds of supplies to the affected and rescued 23,000 people since August 5.

However, he added, it was not only about immediate need, but the way forward. He stressed that while the US was leading the global assistance effort to Pakistan, they would follow Pakistan’s plan, and not impose their own.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Zulfikar Ahmad
    Oct 29, 2010 - 5:42PM

    The newly appointed US envoy Cameron Munter has endorsed US drone strikes inside Pakistan the moment he arraived here, which is very unfortunate.

    As a career diplomat of his calibre he tried to justifiy the drone attacks, which kill thousands of innocent people.

    I am afraid to say that Munter may be proved as ‘hunter’ if he keeps on defending US drone strikes inside Pakistan. Recommend

  • Oct 29, 2010 - 6:21PM

    This man has experience in setting up “New Countries” guess what is he here for? :)Recommend

  • Oct 29, 2010 - 8:10PM

    We need no dictation,
    we should make our own ways,
    otherwise they would take us to darkness
    and we would never come back,
    they are not friend of any one
    they are worshiper of their own interests.Recommend

  • Oct 29, 2010 - 8:15PM

    @Zulfikar. His endorsement of drone attacks is not really important, how about the endorsement of our Armed Forces? Do you think we don’t have the capability to take them out if we wanted to? With the new and shiny airborne monitoring system we just acquired and with the ground to air missiles, we can not only monitor them but also can take ’em out with lighting speed, but only if we ‘wanted’ too.

    But of course we don’t want to do that. If you look closely, our interests are aligned, at least for now. The way I see it, apparently they are doing our dirty laundry for us and we can nothing but thank ’em for they are saving both losses to our Army if we go in ourselves to start an operation and trouble of opening a new war front.

    Where do you think these aircrafts fly from? Afghanistan, Iran or India? or Maybe China?

    And what if I tell you when the American Air Chief was here in Islamabad earlier this years for the reception cum dinner in the Air Headquarters, the predator drone was in air, flying LITERALLY over our beloved Capital.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Oct 29, 2010 - 8:41PM

    @Zulfiqar Ahmad : What evidence do you have of “thousands of innocents” that are killed in drone strikes ? So far I only see evidence of super-terrorists like Baitullah Mehsud and Hakeemullah Mehsud being eliminated in drone attacks.Recommend

  • watchdog from UK
    Oct 30, 2010 - 3:16AM

    Amazing. Ambassador Munter did not pay a visit to Nine Zero but instead Nine Zero occupants went to see him in his residence. The predecessor of the Ambassador Munter would not lose a moment to visit Nine Zero. Recommend

  • Mahvesh Ayyaz
    Oct 30, 2010 - 8:35AM

    @Zulfikar Ahmad – Do you think that drones would be necessary if Pakistan would get some guts and really work the terrorist elements that have infiltrated the country killing innocent men, women, children and other minorities. Where sir is the outrage that after all these years Pakistanis are living in a country drowning in its own sewer of corruption, sleaze and ethnic cleansing with an infrastructure that is crumbling and food shortages that cannot feed or educate its masses.
    @Sultan Ahmed.

    We need no dictation,
    we should make our own ways,
    otherwise they would take us to darkness
    and we would never come back,
    they are not friend of any one
    they are worshiper of their own interests.

    You need dictation
    you have NOT made it any way
    you all have been wandering in the halls of darkness
    you are fortunate that the world has not given up on you
    you are lucky to have any friends
    you are living in a delusional world that Pakistan will survive if some hard changes are done soon
    the world hopes of a glimmer in the gentle folk of Pakistan,,,that is their only interest.Recommend

  • Sarfraz Hussain Naqvi
    Oct 30, 2010 - 11:59AM

    We in Pakistan perceive that USA feels comfortable with INDIA as against Pakistan while operating in this region. This perception is based on both some intangible and some tangible factors. India can (and does) serve as a big market capable of pumping billions of $s in to USA economy while Pakistan CANNOT do so. INDIA is a natural USA ally when viewed in Chinese perspective while Pakistan stands on other side of the fence.
    India can (and does rather has) harm(ed) Pakistan in a big way through the terrorists operating in Tribal areas and elsewhere in Pakistan. She has done it and in such a way that USA too treats Pakistan guilty of sponsoring terrorism. Extremely cleverly, India has made the Americans (rather the entire lot of Westerners) believe that Pakistan is the root cause of terrorism in the whole world. Planting a few Pakistani looking young persons, who happen to have links in Pakistan, to undertake terrorism related actions in order to malign Pakistan is a very common tactics of RAW.
    It is only wisdom that can help USA and the Western World to think positively and in the best interest of their people to see to it that they DO NOT fall prey to INDIAN shrewed strategy in this region. Recommend

  • Mahvesh Ayyaz
    Oct 31, 2010 - 2:06AM

    @Sarfraz Hussain Naqvi

    We in Pakistan perceive that USA feels comfortable with INDIA as against Pakistan..
    We in Pakistan blame ALL the social ills in our society on others.
    We in Pakistan love to blame the corruption that infest the nation on others.
    We in Pakistan think terrorists are created by Pakistani enemies to destroy Pakistan.
    We in Pakistan believe that the health of Pakistan is the result of the rest of the world.
    We in Pakistan can make excuses for the health of the nation by blaming others.
    We in Pakistan refuse to accept personal responsibility for our actions.
    We in Pakistan believe that by playing the victim card we are get ahead.
    We in Pakistan refuse to accept that terrorist find us a perfect breeding ground to grow.
    We in Pakistan have decided to live in a bubble – reality does not happen.
    Please add to the list at your will, if you have any left


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