Barely a week after Pakistan reopened its territory to Nato supplies, US ambassador Cameron Munter has drawn up another “to-do list” for his country’s war-on-terror ally.
Pakistan, in Munter’s estimate, will have to ‘do more’ in countering terrorism if it wants US financial assistance to resume. “Pakistan should not become the problem … it should help resolve the problem,” Munter told the British Broadcasting Corporation in an exclusive interview in Karachi.
He added that Pakistan should cooperate with the Afghan authorities and fight terrorists on its soil.
Although Ambassador Munter did not name any particular group, he was obviously referring to the Haqqani network which, according to US officials, was using its bases in North Waziristan Agency as a springboard for launching attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.
The US diplomat sought to downplay the reopening of Nato supply routes. “It was a problem for Pakistan. It [its decision to block the Nato supply routes] had alienated 50 allies in the ‘war against terrorism’ – a war that Pakistan’s military is also fighting,” he said.
“Now the reopening of the supply routes will help us fight this war collectively,” he added.
Pakistan unblocked the Nato supply routes earlier this month after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a ‘near-apology’ over the Nov 26, 2011 Nato air raid on military border posts in Salala area of Mohmand Agency that killed two dozen troops.
The Salala debacle had strained diplomatic relations between the two uneasy allies – however, they are now trying to undo the damage done by seven months of tension.
“I believe the two countries have acknowledged that they will have to work together,” Ambassador Munter said.
Asked why the Obama administration took so long to apologise over the Salala attack, he said both Pakistan and the United States were responsible for the delay.
“We know the death of Pakistani soldiers [in Salala attack] was a big tragedy. We also realise the emotional trauma that this incident created among Pakistanis. But there were some other factors that caused the delay [in the US apology],” he said.
A delay in policy-making by Pakistan due to domestic politics is to blame for this, Ambassador Munter said. But the Obama administration also shared the blame. “The two sides, however, realised that the delay was not benefiting them.”
Asked about the threat Pakistan was facing from home-grown Taliban insurgents, the top US diplomat said, “We want Pakistan to be a sovereign state – by sovereign I mean the state should have its writ on its soil.”
Referring to what the US calls terrorist safe havens in tribal regions, Munter said that those challenging the writ of the state are terrorists. “The civil and military leadership of Pakistan should defeat such terrorists. And we want to help them,” he added.
He, however, parried a question about the US drone campaign which, Islamabad believes, infringes on its sovereignty.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have been critical of growing US influence in Pakistani politics in the country. Their leaders have also been criticising the US in their public speeches.
Asked about the possibility of an anti-America government coming to power after the 2013 parliamentary election in Pakistan, the US envoy said, “I’ve met both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, and they have assured me that their parties fully support the United States.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the year of the Salala attack as “2010″ instead of “2011″. A correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.