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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.

"Why can't we just talk to these people and get a settlement? Absolutely, we love to do it," he said. "If you have [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar's address, please send him a letter on our behalf to come to the table."

BACK BY THANKSGIVING

The U.S. ambassador to Syria should be returning soon to Damascus, after his recall earlier this month because of threats against his life.

Ambassador Robert Ford even has bought Thanksgiving turkeys for the staff at the U.S. Embassy.

"He very much wants to have Thanksgiving dinner with his folks there," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters last week.

"So that's our expectation, that it'll be sometime before Thanksgiving."

The State Department recalled Mr. Ford after receiving what it called "credible threats" against him for his public opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose security forces are accused of killing at least 3,000 anti-government demonstrators.

Mr. Ford has angered the Assad regime by meeting with protesters and traveling outside the Syrian capital to visit cities where forces have attacked unarmed demonstrators.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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