Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, came to The Washington Times today for an interview with editors and reporters. He answered questions about the new government in Islamabad, its efforts to do more against al Qaeda and the Taliban on their border with Afghanistan, and the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. A partial transcript of my question to the ambassador, and his answer, is below:
Q: We talk a lot in the U.S. about getting Osama bin Laden. It’s important to the Bush administration; it’s important to a lot of people, apparently, in the U.S. public. Is it important to the Pakistani people?
A: It is important to the Pakistani government that anyone who is a symbol of global terrorism should not be allowed to operate from any part of Pakistan or any of its neighboring countries. The Pakistani people have a different view. There is a complete failure of U.S. public diplomacy in the Muslim world, of persuading people of the U.S. case, which to me is a very good case. But somehow there has been a weakness in communicating to the Muslim people that Osama bin Laden is an enemy of Islam, and Muslims, as much as he is an enemy of the United States, or terrorism is an enemy of Islam and Muslims as much as terrorism threatens the United States… .
Right after 9/11, the U.S. made an effort. I don’t know how many of you remember Dennis Ross going and speaking in Arabic on al Jazeera, making the case. But who’s is making the case now? U.S. officials are not always available to people for briefings. It’s more important to them to talk to the American media than it is to talk to the Arab media or the Persian-language media or the Urdu-language media. And so, supporters of bin Laden in the meantime are very active. So basically in psychological warfare, bin Laden has made more gains than he should have been allowed to make. And that is the reason why there is confusion.