Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered tough talk on a brief visit to Islamabad today, saying U.S.-Pakistani relations are at a crossroads, with members of Congress and many Americans raising questions about Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism. The growing public skepticism comes of course in the wake of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound in an affluent army town near Islamabad earlier this month.
Clinton candidly acknowledged that Washington's alliance with Pakistan is damaged and needs to be repaired via more aggressive Pakistani action against Islamist militants.
Relations "had reached a turning point," Clinton said. It is "up to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead" against militants.
Clinton, traveling with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the most high-ranking U.S. official to visit the South Asian nation since the United States carried out its May 2 raid against bin Laden. In its aftermath, U.S. officials have aired frank doubts that bin Laden could have resided for more than five years in his compound in the suburb of Abbattobad, up the street from an elite Pakistani army officer's academy without the knowledge of some Pakistani authorities.
Pakistani officials agreed to give the CIA access to a building on the compound yesterday as a precondition for Clinton's visit, reports said.
Reporters accompanying Clinton on her trip described her meetings and reception there as openly chilly and awkward.
"The atmosphere of her initial meetings — visibly frosty — underscored the tensions between the two countries," the New York Times Steven Lee Myers wrote. "In contrast to the usual diplomatic pleasantries, however, Mrs. Clinton and Admiral Mullen appeared awkward and unsmiling at a meeting in the presidential palace with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the chief of the Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani."
Elements of the Pakistani security services are widely believed to be supporting Afghan Taliban militants and the Haqqani network. Pakistani security officials have used the groups as proxies to try to extend their influence in neighboring Afghanistan--while also warding off the expansion of India's influence there.
Elements of the Pakistani intelligence service are also believed to support Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT), the anti-Indian Pakistani militant group that was implicated in the 2008 terrorism attacks in Mumbai, India that killed over 160 people including 6 Americans. A trial currently underway in Chicago threatens to further expose Pakistani intelligence involvement with the LeT cells that carried out the Mumbai attacks, as Pro Publica's Sebastian Rotella reports.