- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, who resigned abruptly last year, is calling for Washington and Islamabad to break the “tyranny of negative narratives” and wage a stronger fight against terrorism and corruption in the strategic but unstable South Asian nation.

Cameron Munter, a career diplomat, says the two countries must continue “reasonable, clear-eyed cooperation” on counterterrorism and “encourage” broad-based reform of Pakistani institutions to promote “truly democratic Pakistani leadership.”

“The next step would be to break away from the tyranny of negative narratives that limit bilateral ties and reinforce the idea that we have a bad marriage or co-dependent relationship,” he wrote in an article for the Washington-based Asia Society.

The United States and Pakistan are caught in a cycle of blame and recrimination.

Washington complains that Islamabad fails to uproot terrorist bases in its lawless region next to Afghanistan where Taliban militants mount cross-border attacks against U.S.-led NATO troops.

Pakistan accuses the United States of violating its sovereignty and killing civilians in frequent drone strikes against terrorist targets.

In Washington last week, Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman denounced the drone strikes as a “clear violation of our sovereignty and a violation of international law.” She insisted that the Pakistani government has never approved of the strikes, not even with a private “wink and nod.”

Mr. Munter, ambassador in Pakistan from October 2010 to July 2012, reportedly resigned over a disagreement with the drone policy. He later told the Daily Beast website that he supported strikes against terrorist targets but also wanted a more selective use of the air raids and more cooperation with the Pakistan government.

Pakistan also was angered by the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was living in a villa in a Pakistani garrison town.

In his article, Mr. Munter advised U.S. policymakers to link future military and economic aid to democratic reforms in Pakistan.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Washington has given Pakistan nearly $20 billion in assistance, with more than half going to the military. Some analysts believe that nearly 70 percent of the military aid has been misspent and sometimes is diverted to cover government budget deficits.

“There is plenty of blame to go around,” Mr. Munter said, “but it is crucial that the Pakistani leadership step up and admit its failings rather than simply accuse the Americans of inefficiency or bad faith.”

No comment

Ambassadors rarely make news by saying nothing, and many prefer it that way.

Daniel Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel, displayed that diplomatic talent but made news despite himself when he met with Jewish-American leaders in Jerusalem this week.

The ambassador refused to comment on the growing pressure for the United States to release Jewish-American spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for passing U.S. military secrets to Israel nearly 30 years ago.

“He broke the law and was convicted,” Mr. Shapiro told leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“I understand that it bothers Israelis and Americans, and I do not want to talk about his release,” he said in remarks that made news on JewishPress.com.

Mr. Shapiro also told the visiting American Jews that President Obama will underscore the “strong and unbreakable bilateral relationship between the United States and Israel” during his upcoming visit to Israel, his first since taking office in 2009.

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