Entries in Pakistan (26)


Mideast Unrest Tops Hillary Clinton's Agenda at Start of UN Meeting

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stacked her first full day of diplomacy at this year’s annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, also known as UNGA, by meeting with the leaders of some of the United States’ most challenging allies in a region marred by recent civil unrest.

Clinton had sit-down meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Libyan President Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, before ending the evening Monday holding talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

The secretary and her delegation met with Morsi and his delegation for nearly an hour, according to senior State Department officials.  One official described the meeting as “very relaxed and warm,” and said that Morsi began the meeting by affirming Egypt’s commitment to protecting U.S. diplomatic missions, and told Clinton that the Egyptian government understands it has a duty to protect embassies and it’s a duty he takes seriously.

The official pointed out that since the initial violent protests on Sept. 11, Egypt has faced many more, but there have been no further incidents of damage to U.S. embassies and consulates -- a sign security forces are doing their jobs.

At a late Monday night briefing, the official also said that Clinton and Morsi discussed Egypt’s relationship with Israel under the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government.  The official said Morsi repeated previous statements affirming that Egypt has every intention of honoring the Camp David treaty with Israel and continues to work on keeping good communication lines open between the countries.

Both state department officials acknowledged that Egypt has a tough road ahead in shaping its new democracy but that Clinton assured Morsi that despite the call by some lawmakers for Egypt’s aid to be cut, she will continue to advocate for U.S. financial support.

“We understand that there may be members who have questions, but that there is strong bipartisan support for Egypt being a democratic success, because it’s in our national security interest that that occur,” one official said.

Egypt’s plan to include Iran in any negotiations regarding the end of bloodshed in Syria was met with heavy skepticism by Clinton and her delegation.  Calling it a small part in the conversation, an official would not dismiss Egypt’s initiative entirely, but said that the United States always has “concerns when Iran is engaged.”

Although the anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked global protests across the Muslim world, was brought up briefly in the meeting, the official said, Morsi understood the film was not a reflection of the U.S. government and acknowledged that it should not be used an excuse for violence.

Secretary Clinton’s meeting with Pakistan President Zardari, however, began by discussing the video, despite the continued issues between the two countries, including the use of drones, the jailing of the doctor who helped with the operation to kill Osama bin Laden, and the declaration of the Haqqani network as a terror group.

“The meeting today with President Zardari started again on the recent violence caused by the video,” said another senior State Department official with authority to comment.  “We have had extremely good support from Pakistani security sources in protecting our posts and our personnel, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about the violence throughout the region.”

After they finished talking about the video, they turned to issues of counterterrorism, where Clinton and Zardari agreed to support a joint counterterrorism working group that will meet throughout the year.

Clinton’s most verbally and publicly pleasant greeting was reserved for Libyan President Magariaf, whom she thanked again for the outpouring of support the Libyan people have shown America after the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats earlier this month.

“The United States was proud to stand with you and the Libyan people as you fought for your country last year,” Clinton said.  “And we will continue to stand with you as you now write Libya’s new future as a democracy that will give all of your people a chance to have a better future.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Brennan Defends Drone Strikes as Pakistan and Protestor Object

C-SPAN(WASHINGTON) -- As White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan delivered a speech Monday defending the U.S. drone campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda militants, an audience member interrupted and delivered a minute-long speech of her own protesting the targeted killings and the death of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki's teen son in Yemen.

"What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with our drone strikes in Pakistan and in Yemen and Somalia?" said the well-dressed blonde woman as Brennan tried to address the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington Monday. Before she was carried from the auditorium, she condemned Brennan for the death of Awlaki's U.S.-born son Abdulrahman in an October 2011 drone strike and said "I speak out on behalf of the Constitution...Shame on you!"

Brennan's speech defending the U.S. drone campaign, the Obama administration's first public admission that it is using drones to take down al Qaeda, comes as Pakistan delivered its strongest and most public condemnation yet of U.S. strikes, accusing the U.S. of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations."

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," said the statement.

In his remarks, Brennan confirmed that the U.S. "in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and save American lives ... conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And I'm here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts."

Brennan stressed his belief that the strikes are allowed under both U.S. and international law, and also that they are ethical and "wise."

"They can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel, even eliminating the danger altogether," said Brennan. "Yet they are also a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to innocent civilians."

Brennan also asserted that the U.S. holds itself to "rigorous standards...when considering and authorizing strikes."

"I know that for many people the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions," said Brennan. "It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it." But until al Qaeda "fades into history," concluded Brennan, "if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives – the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, died in a drone strike in Yemen last September. His 16-year-old son Abdulrahman died less than three weeks later in a separate drone strike.

Pakistan's protest came after a U.S. drone strike Sunday in Waziristan.

The strike killed three suspected militants who were hiding out in an abandoned girls school, according to U.S. officials. There were no other casualties.

Drones strikes have become increasingly unpopular in Pakistan. Earlier this month, lawmakers there established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country's relationship with the United States. Among their first conditions was the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

Monday's harsh condemnation is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations that have soured Pakistan-U.S. relations ever since the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Relations hit a new low last November when a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Solala, along the country's Afghan border. U.S. officials said the attack was a mistake, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. In response, Pakistan closed the NATO supply route from its side of the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, cutting off supplies desperately needed to support the Afghan mission.

Recently, there had been signs that both sides were willing to compromise. Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to the region, recently wrapped up a two day visit to Pakistan, during which he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's foreign minister to lobby for the reopening of the route. Pakistani officials themselves say they want the route re-opened, but have set the cessation of drone strikes and a formal apology for the Solala incident as preconditions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rep. Ron Paul Predicts US Military Involvement in Pakistan

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Congressman Ron Paul sees no way out of the war in Afghanistan.

In fact, the Texas Republican, who announced his candidacy for president last week, believes the U.S. is primed to send forces into Pakistan.

Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe Wednesday, Paul, who has fervently opposed U.S. military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said, "I think that we are going to be in Pakistan.  I think that's the next occupation and I fear it.  I think it's ridiculous, and I think our foreign policy is such that we don't need to be doing this.”

Paul said the Obama administration telegraphed its future intentions with the successful raid to get Osama bin Laden, who was living undetected in Abbottabad, Pakistan for the past several years.

That mission and other actions, including sending unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda and Taliban members in Pakistan's northwestern region, are tantamount to creating civil war and violating our ally's national security, according to Paul, who has promised to withdraw all American forces out of Afghanistan if elected president.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton and Kerry Clashing on US-Pakistan Relations?

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There appears to be a disconnect between what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., are saying about U.S. relations with Pakistan. Administration officials, and Secretary Clinton, don’t seem particularly pleased by his recent effort in Islamabad.
On Monday, during his visit there, Kerry told reporters that relations between Washington and Islamabad had been “re-set.”
Yet Tuesday, when asked whether U.S.-Pakistan relations had actually turned the corner, Clinton said there was a long way to go.
“We are working very hard to have an understanding with our counterparts in Pakistan about the best way forward,” she said. “There are important concerns and many questions that have to be addressed and worked through.”
In fact, Clinton made it clear that Kerry didn’t speak for the administration, offering perhaps a pointed dig at the fact that Kerry issued a joint statement with Pakistani officials that was billed as a joint U.S.-Pakistan statement (administration officials insist this was Kerry freelancing).
“I appreciate very much his delivering to the Pakistanis, in his capacity as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a clear perspective on the concerns of the United States Congress,” Clinton said Tuesday, emphasizing Kerry’s position in the legislative branch.
Clinton is dispatching her top aide on the region, Marc Grossman, who is slated to arrive in Pakistan on Thursday. It’s maybe another sign that Clinton had her own messages to deliver to Pakistani officials.
Kerry said during a hearing Tuesday morning that Pakistan had agreed to take several steps to pave the way for Clinton’s eventual visit, but he said he would leave it up to the executive branch to announce them.
Asked what those steps were, Clintons again seemed a bit annoyed in her response.
“I’m not going to comment on any specific issue that Senator Kerry referred to in any of his public remarks, but we are going to be working very hard in the days and weeks ahead to ensure that we have a path forward that continues the progress and answers a lot of the concerns that both sides have at this point,” she said.
There has been a bit of tension between Kerry and Clinton, despite the fact that Kerry has been used to send messages for the administration to leaders around the world. In particular, officials say Clinton was peeved at Kerry’s staunch support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which he insisted was a reformer. Clinton was not convinced.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Harry Reid on Pakistan: 'Withhold Judgment,' Not Aid

Reid dot Senate dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- With continued calls from some on Capitol Hill to cut off financial aid to Pakistan in the wake of the discovery that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday said Congress should “withhold judgment,” not aid.
Speaking to reporters after the Democrats’ weekly party luncheon -- which included a presentation by Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry on his recent whirlwind trip to Pakistan -- Reid preached patience with Pakistan.  
“I think right now we’re at a very difficult time,” Reid said. “We need to see if we can improve the relationship and there are people working on that now, as indicated by the presentation by Sen. Kerry. We need a good relationship with Pakistan. I hope we can have that good relationship with Pakistan, but this isn’t the time to start flexing our muscles.
“I think this is the time that we have to withhold judgment,” he cautioned. “Before any money is going to ask to be sent to Pakistan, there will be hearings, there will be discussions in the White House, there will be diplomatic activities taking place. So my personal opinion -- I’m not speaking for the caucus of course -- I don’t think we need at this stage to talk about what we’re going to do because that decision doesn’t have to be made right now.”
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, warned that “disengaging” from Pakistan would be a mistake.
“I don’t think disengaging from Pakistan -- a nuclear power -- is in America’s best interest,” McConnell said. “There are certainly, as we have learned, a lot of different factions in Pakistan, some of which are friendly to us and some of which are not. We knew that before the Osama bin Laden raid. We still know that. But I think disengaging and pulling back from Pakistan would not be in America’s best interest.”
In recent weeks a number of prominent senators have questioned whether or not Pakistan should still receive billions of dollars in U.S. financial aid. Last week Senate Intel Committee boss Dianne Feinstein told reporters that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship “makes less and less sense,” while Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was the first senator to argue that all financial aid should be suspended.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. John Kerry Has Preliminary Meeting with Pakistan Army Chief

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- U.S. Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., has warned that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is currently at a “critical moment.”

Kerry, who is in Afghanistan, met with top U.S. and Afghan officials on Sunday and following those meetings the Massachusetts senator said that he has deep reservations about “whether or not Pakistan is committed to the same goals or are prepared to be a full partner in pursuing those goals.”

The relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. was hit by turbulence following the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs in Pakistan on May 1. Pakistan was not informed about the raid until it was completed, and some have questioned whether Pakistani officials knew that the world’s most wanted man was hiding out in the city of Abbottabad. Pakistani officials claim they were not aware that bin Laden was hiding out in the city, in a mansion located near a top Pakistan military academy.

On Sunday Kerry also met with the head of Pakistan’s army for approximately 30 minutes in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A senior Pakistani military official said that during the meeting Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told Senator Kerry about the “great resentment” the Pakistan army had with the raid in which bin Laden was killed. It is not clear exactly how Kerry responded to Kayani’s statements. U.S. officials were not immediately available to comment on how the meeting went.

Kerry, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is scheduled to have more extensive meetings with Kayani on Monday, with Pakistan’s president and prime minister also expected to be in attendance.

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio


Ron Paul Would Not Have Ordered Osama Bin Laden Killing

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Rep. Ron Paul took an interesting position for a likely presidential candidate Tuesday -- he explained to an Iowa radio station why he would not have ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“It was absolutely not necessary and I think respect for the rule of law, international law -- what if he’d been in a hotel in London?" Paul asked. "We wanted to keep it secret. Would we have sent the helicopters into London? Because they were afraid the information would get out. No you don’t want to do that.”

Paul said the U.S. government should have worked with the Pakistani government, respecting borders, to get at Osama bin Laden.

He pointed to other terror suspects who were captured and tried. Paul pointed to the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, widely accepted as the 9/11 mastermind, by Pakistani authorities. Mohammed now sits at Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial by a military tribunal.

Paul also pointed to the capture and trial of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was arrested in Brooklyn and tried and convicted in U.S. court.

“What’s wrong with that?” Paul asked. “Why can’t we work with the government?”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to '60 Minutes': Confident of Bin Laden Raid, Worried for SEALs

The White House/Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- President Obama admits that he “did not lose sleep” over the chance that the high-risk mission he ordered last week could mean the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

However, he also acknowledged in a pre-recorded interview with Steve Kroft that aired Sunday evening on CBS’ 60 Minutes that his chief concern above all others was “can we still get the guys out” if the Navy SEAL raid on the suspected bin Laden hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan went sideways.

Fortunately for the president and the nation, the SEALs got their target -- the most wanted terrorist in the world since orchestrating the attacks against the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Still, the possibility of failure was also on Obama’s mind.

He told Kroft, “You think about Black Hawk Down.  You think about what happened with the Iranian rescue.  And I am very sympathetic to the situation for other presidents where you make a decision, you're making your best call, your best shot, and something goes wrong.”

He called the 40 minutes of the actual operation “the longest 40 minutes of my life, with the possible exception of when [daughter] Sasha got meningitis."

Asked by Kroft about those who questioned if bin Laden was actually eliminated, Obama asserted “There is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden,” then repeated his earlier assertion that photographic evidence demanded by skeptics would only serve to inflame bin Laden loyalists in the Islamic world.

One question that won’t go away anytime soon is if bin Laden was shielded by sympathetic Pakistanis, given that he lived in the million dollar-compound for as long as six years, just a short drive from the capital of Islamabad and very near the country’s top military academy.

The president declared his belief that “some sort of support network” existed in Pakistan for bin Laden to remain undetected by U.S. intelligence but there was no way of knowing now if people inside the Pakistani government were complicit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Donilon: Pakistan Remains Important U.S. Ally

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, a lot of questions have been raised about whether or not Pakistani officials were aware that bin Laden had been hiding out in the town of Abbottabad, in a compound located only a third of a mile away from a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

"The idea that he could be in a suburb essentially of Islamabad is quite remarkable," said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour.

"This isn't a time bluster from Pakistan," Rice added. "This is a time for serious analysis of why this happened, why he was hiding in plain sight for apparently as long as he was."

The U.S. did not give Pakistan prior warning about the raid in which Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, and White House national security advisor Tom Donilon said that decision was not based on mistrust, but rather on "operational security." The United States acted on the assumption that bin Laden had an escape plan; if the information leaked, the Al Qaeda leader would vanish once more. There was also the matter of protecting U.S. forces.

"The safety and security of our operators would have been put at issue," Donilon said. "So we didn't share this with anybody, not even our closest ally."

Pakistan remains an important ally of the United States, the national security advisor noted, and its role in the ongoing fight against terrorism should not be so easily dismissed.

The United States also has an immediate interest in preserving the relationship: Pakistan has in its custody all the non-combatants of the Abbottabad compound, including three of Bin Laden's wives. Pakistani officials also took additional material from the compound, according to Donilon, and the United States needs access to it.

Rice said it is possible and probable that high-ranking Pakistani officials did not know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. Ignorance, however, is not an excuse.

"If this happens in your country," Rice told Amanpour, "you have an obligation to find out and to do a thorough investigation and to punish anybody who might have been responsible."

Politicians and Americans are now questioning whether the United States should cut off funding to Pakistan. From 2002 to 2010, the United States gave $13.3 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan, and $6 billion for economic assistance. More than $3 billion was requested for 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Carl Levin 'Deeply Disturbed' About US Aid to Pakistan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC News he is "deeply disturbed" about U.S. aid to Pakistan and has launched an informal investigation into whether high levels of the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.

"We need these questions about whether or not the top level of the Pakistan government knew or was told by the ISI, their intelligence service, about anything about this suspicious activity for five years in a very, very centralized place," Levin said in an interview with ABC News.

Levin, for one, believes high levels of the Pakistani government had to know where bin Laden was.

"I think at high levels, high levels being the intelligence service, at high levels they knew it," Levin said.  "I can't prove it.  I just think it's counterintuitive not to."

This year alone, the United States gave Pakistan more than $3 billion in military and economic aid.

"Some of it is in our interest.  Some of it seems to be, is not clearly in our interest, and that's why the questions that we are asking the Pakistan government to answer need to be answered," Levin said.

As for the U.S. operation to get bin Laden, Levin said he is unconcerned that details of the story told by the White House have changed.

"There was a firefight on the first floor, and then the most dangerous guy in the world that was being captured on the third floor makes a move, which was an evasive move, guns in his room, big guns, you know, powerful guns," Levin said.  "And here's a man who sends out suicide bombers, who himself was easily expected could have a suicide vest himself and blow up the whole thing."

Levin added, "The bottom line is the right thing was done in the right way." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio