- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2011

DEFENDING PAKISTAN

Pakistan Ambassador Husain Haqqani is traveling the United States, feverishly defending his country against charges from many in Washington who accuse Pakistan of supporting terrorists who target U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and the United States are not going to war,” he declared in a surprising comment to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

That Mr. Haqqani, an urbane and polished diplomat, had to assure a sophisticated audience of foreign affairs specialists that hostilities are unthinkable between the U.S. and a key South Asian ally shows how deeply the relationship has deteriorated.

Many U.S. officials have long suspected that some members of Pakistan’s intelligence service allowed Taliban terrorists to hide out in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, after U.S. forces toppled the brutal Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.

U.S. commandos finally tracked down and killed bin Laden in May in his hide-out in a Pakistan garrison town. That raid further damaged bilateral relations.

Some Pakistani officials denounced the United States for the incursion into Pakistan, as some U.S. officials saw bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, about 30 miles north of Islamabad, as proof that the world’s most wanted terrorist had powerful protectors in Pakistan.

In his speech Friday in Chicago, Mr. Haqqani appealed for more understanding for the difficulties Pakistan faces with Muslim radicals attacking pro-democracy advocates and trying to impose Islamic fundamentalism on society.

“My request to Americans is to be patient with Pakistan,” he said.

Mr. Haqqani cited comments by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to justify Pakistan’s attempts to hold talks with the Taliban.

Mrs. Clinton last week told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Obama administration is trying to talk to terrorists while increasing military pressure on them at the same time.

She revealed that U.S. officials this summer held talks with representatives of a shadowy terrorist group known as the Haqqani Network. (Although it shares the ambassador’s surname, it has no connection with the diplomat.)

The ambassador noted the deep distrust that has developed between his government and Washington.

Pakistan and the United States are agreed that reconciliation is something we need to work for,” he said.

However, a “very small number of people, dedicated and violent, want to impose their will by arms,” which makes talking to terrorists difficult, he added.

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