THE PLANK OCTOBER 30, 2009
This is pretty great.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed doubt Thursday over Pakistan's failure to locate top al-Qaeda leaders in the eight years since they escaped over the border from Afghanistan, telling a group of Pakistani journalists that she found "it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to."
"So far as we know," she said, "they're in Pakistan."
It's interesting to see Hillary finally getting her "hands dirty," so to speak, in a front-line crisis zone; until now her priority has seemed to be major strategic relationships with places like China and Russia and overarching foreign policy goals. (It's also hard not to wonder if this is more evidence of a downgrading of Richard Holbrooke's role.)
Although it's worth noting that one major Pakistani newspaper isn't impressed: yesterday the Nation called her visit "a PR exercise," complains about America's fixation with Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and our nuclear cooperation with India. And this:
If the U.S. is serious, it should sign with Pakistan an India-like civil nuclear deal - but who of our present leadership would demand this and stick to it? And that's precisely the problem with Pakistan's relationship with the United States. The U.S. approach toward Pakistan was summed up well with the photograph of Richard Holbrooke slumped in his chair during the talks, chewing gum nonchalantly. After all, they've gotten what they want from Pakistan. Our tragedy is that amid all the groveling, there's no one to speak for Pakistan.
Congress just approved $7.5 billion in aid to the country, you'd think they might be a little more grateful. Such are the challenges we face.