Haqqani Discusses Troubled Pakistani-U.S. Relations

High-level military and intelligence officers from the U.S. and Pakistan are meeting Wednesday, both here and there, trying to ratchet down tensions in a troubled relationship between two allies. The U.S. has suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan. That came after Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lent credence to reports that Pakistani authorities sanctioned the murder of a journalist who was critical of the Pakistani intelligence service. Pakistan labeled Mullen's remarks "extremely irresponsible and unfortunate." That exchange compounded ill-feelings generated by the killing of Osama bin Laden. Robert Siegel speaks with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, about the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

High level military and intelligence officers from the U.S. and Pakistan are meeting today, both here and there, trying to ratchet down tensions in a troubled relationship between two allies.

The U.S. has suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan. That came after Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lent credence to reports that Pakistani authorities sanctioned the murder of a journalist who was critical of the intelligence services. Pakistan labeled Mullen's remarks extremely irresponsible and unfortunate.

That exchange compounded ill feelings generated by the killing of Osama bin Laden; Pakistan's anger that its sovereignty had been violated, American anger that bin Laden had been hiding in the middle of an army garrison town.

Well, here to talk about the state of U.S.-Pakistan relations is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Hussein Haqqani. Ambassador Haqqani, welcome.

Ambassador HUSAIN HAQQANI (Pakistan to the United States): Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: A search of recent articles about the U.S.-Pakistan relation turns up adjectives like deteriorating, toxic, poisonous, troubled. Is that all accurate?

Amb. HAQQANI: Not at all. Pakistan and the United States have a complex, multidimensional relationship. Both countries need each other. Occasionally there are differences between the best of allies. We've seen that through history: France and the United States had problems, Britain and the United States did not always agree on the conduct of the Second World War.

So I think what we see is basically a difficult, complex relationship playing out in an age of media glare. But what comes in the media glare is not always what happens in private between us as allies.

SIEGEL: But in fairness, the U.S. government went out of its way to suspend payment to Pakistan. That's not a subtle clue and that's not just the media. That's Washington.

Amb. HAQQANI: Firstly, let me just say that what has been withheld or delayed are coalition support payments which are not aid. They are reimbursement for Pakistan's expenditure in the course of action against terrorists. And these payments have not actually come through since December 2010. So it is in some ways the media, in the sense that something that hasn't come through since December 2010 has become the subject of a story in July 2011.

The United States has been relatively slow in reimbursing Pakistan. We will take it up with them, have taken it up with them, and we hope that it will clear up over time.

SIEGEL: But you're putting a brave face on this. Clearly, the way the story has been presented to the media in this country, there's a signal being sent by the government, isn't it? Whatever the substance of the...

Amb. HAQQANI: I think that the United States and Pakistan do not need to send each other signals through the media. I think we have enough high-level contacts and ongoing contacts. I meet officials from the U.S. government almost every day.

So I think that the assumption that somehow - and look, now, you are from the media, my origins are from the media. We sometimes take our business too seriously. The world happens primarily for us, for the media to report on. But sometimes we think that all that is reported is that all that is happening. That's not true.

SIEGEL: Assuming that after these meetings, we'll hear people from both countries saying just what you've said about a complex multidimensional relationship, beyond words, what deeds might be we expect to see in the coming weeks that might restore some confidence, say, in Washington, confidence in Pakistan? Might we see the Pakistani army offensive in Waziristan?

Amb. HAQQANI: Pakistan and the United States have been allies for a long time. Where we have always disagreed is that the American timelines for specific actions are not necessarily the same as Pakistani timelines. We have to take into account a lot of ground realities. We have to take into account how our public feels. When we send our troops somewhere for operations, we have to bear in mind exactly what your military does when it's sending your men into the way of harm.

And so it's much easier for people in Washington, D.C. writing commentary -even for congressional staffers and members of Congress - to say, why don't they do this. There are reasons. Those reasons are always explain to our American partners. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we disagree. But the fundamental fact remains that the will and the intention to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan is shared by Pakistan and the United States. Terrorists are as much Pakistan's enemies as they are of the United States.

SIEGEL: Do with the realities that the Pakistani authorities face when they hear U.S. demands, do they therefore justify U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani targets, perhaps without Pakistani cooperation? Is that therefore justified since you can't do it?

Amb. HAQQANI: Drones and what happens in relation to drones is something that we have - both sides have chosen right now not to raise in the public sphere. We continue to discuss the matter in private.

SIEGEL: The drone strikes continue. They're still taking place. You're not going to talk about it?

Amb. HAQQANI: They do and we choose not to talk about them.

SIEGEL: Just want to follow up on the mutual resentments over the bin Laden raid in early May. Almost a month ago, you said that the roundup of more than 30 Pakistanis in Abbottabad was done to find out what happened and who was involved. Well, it's been a while now. Has Pakistan determined what happened? And is it clear to authorities there that not a single resident of that city knew that the head of al-Qaida was living there?

Amb. HAQQANI: The evidence that has been gathered is going to be presented before a commission of inquiry, like the Warren Commission, because this involves two different parts. America's resentment is only about why Osama bin Laden was there. Pakistanis are concerned about why Osama bin Laden was there and how. But we are also concerned about why our American friends chose not to share the information and intelligence with us and decided to go it alone.

We need to find out the answer to both questions.

SIEGEL: If the answer to the second question is because they thought the Pakistanis might tip somebody off, what would that say about U.S.-Pakistani relations?

Amb. HAQQANI: Well, just that Americans and Pakistanis need to build more trust with one another. And that is a process. It is not something that's going to happen in the form of an event. Look, for about 11, 12 percent of Pakistanis have faith in the United States. That's not a very positive. I mean, I am one of those but that doesn't mean that the rest of my countrymen are. And the United States needs to have the people of Pakistan onboard for a long time partnership.

So if the U.S. realizes, recognizes, and understands that working with Pakistan will get the same result as working behind our backs, then I think it serves their interests to work with us.

SIEGEL: But Ambassador Haqqani, the partnership is long-standing by now. I mean, there are many, many years of relations between the U.S. military and the Pakistani military in dealing with the Taliban and dealing with Afghanistan. For these mistrusts to exist at this point, for the U.S. to mistrust Pakistan's resolve and ability to pull off a raid, it's obviously based on the experience of the past several years. Isn't it?

Amb. HAQQANI: Well, so with the Pakistani view of the United States being a fickle friend. So I think that the best course forward is always to analyze the past, work together in the present, and plan for the future. And that's exactly what is happening behind the scenes between Pakistani and American officials.

SIEGEL: You're optimistic about all this?

Amb. HAQQANI: Let me just say that if I were pessimistic I wouldn't be doing this job.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you for coming here and doing your job, Ambassador Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

Amb. HAQQANI: Pleasure being here.

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