RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been causing a stir as she completes her trip to Pakistan. She suggested yesterday that the Pakistani government was not doing enough to root out al-Qaida. Those remarks were the strongest signal yet by the Obama administration that the Pakistanis could find al-Qaida leaders but are not really going after them.
We're going to talk with NPR's Jackie Northam, who's traveling with the secretary. Hi, Jackie.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What prompted Secretary Clinton to make this remark?
NORTHAM: Well, she was talking to some local press people here - newspaper and magazine writers and that - and they were coming down pretty hard on her, saying, you know, why is it that the U.S. seemingly focuses just on Pakistan in this fight against Islamist extremism and that? And you know, they kept going after her, and finally she said al-Qaida has been in Pakistan since 2002, since they were driven out of Afghanistan. And she said she found it hard to believe that nobody in the Pakistani government knows where they are and that they couldn't get them if they really wanted to. She backed off a little bit. She said maybe that's the case, may be they're not gettable. She said, I don't know. But nonetheless those were her comments, and believe me, they've really caused a stir around here.
INSKEEP: What have Pakistanis said?
NORTHAM: Well, the newspapers have been full of this story today and certainly the television news shows this morning also were wall to wall coverage of this type of thing. It really hit a nerve. Government officials, you know, are taking the standard line. They said, you know, if the U.S. government has information or evidence, tell us and we will try to find these people. But you know, Secretary Clinton's comments are really just a public voicing of something that the Obama administration has been saying to the Pakistani government in private for many, many months now, that they could do more to try to root out leaders of al-Qaida, and certainly Taliban leaders.
INSKEEP: Interesting that she would make this remark in public though, because part of her purpose in Pakistan seemed to be to smooth things over with a country and a government that was rather anxious about the U.S. presence.
NORTHAM: Oh, certainly. I mean this has been billed as a goodwill tour and the key purpose of this trip was really to reach out to the public and put a better face on the U.S., and she's unveiled millions of dollars worth of aid packages here and she has talked with a lot of people. It's been one event after the other, but she has faced a lot of criticism and a lot of complaints and a lot of requests for more - need more, need more - and she's actually started pushing back. So it is a goodwill tour, yes, but it hasn't been a completely smooth tour. She has pushed back.
INSKEEP: Well, Jackie Northam, I'd like to ask about the substantive charge that Secretary Clinton has made. It sounds like the Pakistani response, well, if you've got information, give it to us, is more of a rhetorical device. What do Pakistanis say in your many trips to that country to explain why it's been so difficult for them to move against al-Qaida for the last seven years or so?
NORTHAM: Well, a large part of it is where al-Qaida is supposed to be hiding. You know, these are remote, very rugged areas that are very, very difficult to get to. The other problem for a long time, Steve, has been denial by the Pakistani government that, you know, these people are not there, that we're not harboring, that type of thing. There seemed to have been a breakthrough with that sort of mindset over the last few months, and we're seeing that that play out in that the military is going after - you know, they've launched a couple of offenses into the Swat Valley and the current one into South Waziristan right now. So there does seem to be some movement on that part, but the fact of the matter is the Obama administration feels it still isn't enough at this point.
INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam, thanks very much.
NORTHAM: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.