Clinton Faces Pakistani Ire Over Drone Attacks

Clinton Faces Pakistani Ire Over Drone Attacks

Clinton on tough questions in Pakistan (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 30, 2009) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that she doesn’t think she was too blunt while answering questions during her visit to Pakistan, saying, “It was actually very healthy that there was no false politeness.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports. (02:58)

October 30, 2009

ISLAMABAD – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton faced sharp rebukes from Pakistani audiences Friday, including one woman who accused the U.S. of conducting “executions without trial” in aerial drone strikes. Slapping back, Clinton questioned Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorists.

“Somebody, somewhere in Pakistan must know where these people are,” Clinton said in an exchange almost as blunt as her exasperated comments a day earlier that Pakistani officials lacked the will to target al-Qaida.

Her stormy three-day visit, rocked at the start by a terrorist blast in Peshawar that killed 105 Pakistanis, revealed clear signs of strain between the two nations despite months of public insistence that they were on the same wavelength in the war on terror.

Image: Residents, rescue workers and security officials gather after a bomb explosion in Peshawar

Residents, rescue workers and security officials sort through the rubble after a bomb explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009. (Photo credit: Fayaz Aziz / Reuters)

By speaking bluntly about the Pakistanis’ failure to find and eliminate top al-Qaida leaders – eight years after they were run out of Afghanistan – Clinton appeared to be trying to prod the Pakistanis to go beyond their current military campaign against internal militants in South Waziristan.

Pakistan’s army recently launched a major offensive in the border area to clear out Pakistani Taliban elements from hideouts there. But two earlier army efforts made little progress there – leaving questions about the military’s resolve to tackle al-Qaida head-on. …

Image: Hillary Clinton

Irfan Mahmood / AP U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Pakistani tribal leaders in Islamabad, Oct. 30, 2009.

During the visit and talks with Pakistani leaders, Clinton found herself repeatedly on the defensive from ordinary Pakistanis brimming with resentment toward U.S. foreign policy.

In a live broadcast of an interview before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, Clinton struggled to avoid describing the classified U.S. effort to target terrorists, and still try to explain the efforts of American foreign policy. …

As she sparred with Pakistani citizens and journalists, Clinton faced sharp questions about the secret U.S. program that uses unmanned aircraft to launch missiles to kill terrorists along the porous, ungoverned border with Afghanistan.

But she refused to go into detail about the classified strikes that have killed both key terror leaders and bystanders, long a source of outrage among Pakistan’s population despite an equally deadly campaign of militant-spawned bombings.

Asked repeatedly about the drones, a subject that involves highly classified CIA operations, Clinton said only that “there is a war going on.” She added that the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents. … Full story