- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2012

Did he quit in anger? Was he forced out?

Or did the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan just want to spend more time with his family?

The speculation about the resignation of Ambassador Cameron Munter after less that two years on the job has been gripping diplomats and journalists in Islamabad since he quietly told his embassy staff of his decision Monday.

Unnamed diplomatic sources whispered to reporters that Mr. Munter quit after a newspaper said he had a secret meeting last month with terrorist leader Hafiz Saeed, who has a U.S. bounty on his head. The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday strongly denied the report.

Other stories said Mr. Munter was angered because Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton undermined his efforts to reach out to Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa terror group. He is also a founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization.

Another report speculated that Mr. Munter might have been forced to resign from the position in Islamabad.

The embassy dismissed the story of a secret meeting, reported by the Jang newspaper this week.

“Ambassador Munter has never met with Hafiz Saeed. No U.S. official has made any promises to, or agreements with, Hafiz Saeed,” the embassy said.

It noted that Saeed is a prime suspect in the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people, including six Americans. The three-day assault also injured more than 300 others.

The Independent News Pakistan linked Mr. Munter’s resignation to Mrs. Clinton’s strong rebuke of Pakistan on a visit to India this week.

She called on Pakistan to arrest Saeed for his links to the Mumbai attack and noted that the United States has placed a $10 million bounty for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

“Terrorists in Pakistan have killed 30,000 Pakistanis,” Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday. “We need stronger, more concerted efforts against the scourge of terrorism.”

Her comments appeared to contradict statements Mr. Munter made late last month at a dinner of the American Business Forum in Pakistan.

Pakistan Today reported that Mr. Munter denied that the United States had set a reward for Saeed’s arrest.

However, the State Department on April 3 announced the bounty through the Rewards for Justice program, administered through the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and established by an anti-terrorist act in 1984.

The controversy over Mr. Munter’s resignation comes amid high tensions in U.S.-Pakistani relations that began to tatter last year after Pakistan denounced the U.S. commando raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan.

LIBERATION OF PILSEN

U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen shared a personal moment this week when he honored American soldiers who liberated the city of Pilsen in the former Czechoslovakia nearly 70 years ago.

“The relationship between the Czechs and Americans is one of the closest in the world. I should know because my mother was born in the former Czechoslovakia,” he said.

Mr. Eisen’s mother was the only member of her immediate family to survive the horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Mr. Eisen, ambassador in Prague since January 2011, praised the troops of Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army, which liberated Pilsen on May 6, 1945.

“We have stood with the Czechs through the dark days of communism and were ready to welcome them following the Velvet Revolution,” he said, referring to the peaceful separation of the Czech and Slovak republics in 1992.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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