- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

REVOLVING DOOR

American diplomats showed “greater courage” serving behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War than they do today serving in countries with a high threat of terrorism, Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States said Monday.

Ambassador Husain Haqqani told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that American ambassadors also serve too little time in Pakistan to really understand the complexities of his country.

He acknowledged that security threats are so great in Pakistan that American diplomats do not bring their families with them during their tour there.


“There were security problems during the Cold War … but American diplomats showed greater courage,” he said.

Mr. Haqqani added that even during the Vietnam War, “diplomats stayed” until the fall of Saigon.

“Now there’s this problem because of terrorism,” he said, explaining that U.S. diplomats rarely stray far from the U.S. Embassy.

“They don’t go out very much …. They stay in the capital …. There is a very quick rotation.”

Mr. Haqqani noted that foreign ambassadors used to stay for a three-year tour, but even that was too brief.

“It takes you three months to unpack, a year to learn about the country … and then, in the three-year rotation, at least you served for another year and three quarters and packed for three months,” he said.

“Now you pack for three months, unpack for three months, try to learn about the country in three months and start packing again.”

The current U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, presented her diplomatic credentials to President Pervez Musharraf on July 31. Her predecessor, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, served two years and four months, while his predecessor, Ambassador Nancy Powell, served two years and three months.

Ambassador Wendy J. Chamberlin served only eight months from September 2001 to May 2002.

Mr. Haqqani also said he suspected that U.S. travel warnings about visiting Pakistan are frequently the result of a fear of lawsuits from unsuspecting Americans who might encounter trouble on their trips.

“The State Department has to issue these sweeping warnings so that nobody sues them,” he said.

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