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Inside America’s most dysfunctional relationship

February 21st, 2013
01:54 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

Before the raid on the Abbottabad complex where Osama bin Laden lived and died, then U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter’s main concern was for the American community overseas.

“We didn't know what the response would be. I spent a lot of time talking with our team about how we would take care of the people in the embassy and the Americans overseas.”

Did he suspect that the Pakistani government and military would be so enraged? “We didn't really know what to think,” Munter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

In 1979, the U.S. embassy was overrun in Islamabad and burned.

“You never want to see something like that happen and you want to make sure that you have everything in place in case it does,” Munter said.
Throughout Munter’s time as ambassador, he faced major challenges in the at-times dysfunctional relationship between U.S. and Pakistan.

Polls show that only 8% of Pakistanis view the U.S. as a partner, while 74% view it as an enemy.

“I think it's very important to look at these numbers and remember that what we're talking about is a picture the Pakistanis have of us, that they see, in terms of our security policy,” Munter said. But he added, “There's a part of America that the Pakistanis respect very much: our education, our business acumen, our openness and cultural side.”

The U.S. does enjoy solid long-term relationships Pakistani universities, businesses, and many curical people-to-people relationships, according to Munter.

A new book coming out by Vali Nasr, who was a member of President Obama’s AfPak team, recounts how the Pentagon and the CIA for many years directed and dominated U.S. policy towards Pakistan. As a result, Nasr says the diplomatic considerations were essentially given short shrift.
“It's not that we don't need these kinds of counterterrorist work,” Munter said, “We need to supplement those with the commitment to the Pakistani people and to their future, and to stability.”

But the opinion polls make it all too clear that Pakistanis don’t feel that.

“We need to have more balance. We worked on it during my time there. I'll be honest with you; I think we could have done a lot better. I think the Pakistanis could have done a lot better. I think the team that's there now is trying to do that, to have more outreach, to have more long-term commitment to Pakistan and the needs they have in addition to what we have in counterterrorism.”

Munter told the Daily Beast that he used to receive calls from the White House to ‘dial up the pain;’ and he would tell the U.S. that Islambad doesn’t respond well to ‘dialing up the pain.’

“Look, when you're dealing with diplomacy, you're dealing with the idea of listening as well as talking,” Munter said. “A diplomat will want to make sure that in addition to telling America's story, that we're listening to the other person's perception so we can come to some sort of agreement.

The U.S. Congress authorized $7.5 billion of spending for the region over five years which is still being spent right now.

“We didn't get everything done that we wanted to and we should look hard at our systems program to see where we may have failed. But I think in Pakistan, we also ran into a government that wasn't always able to deliver.”

Munter said the U.S. must emulate the type of diplomacy that Ambassador Chris Stevens implemented in Libya before he was murdered.

“Chris was a master. I didn't know him well, but I know that he was a master at reaching out, talking to people, knowing what was going on,” Munter said. “So just as the diplomats, like Chris Stevens, need to go out and find out the information, to listen, to figure out what's going on, the security people also need to get out. You can't hide behind a wall.”

READ MORE: In Afghanistan 11-year-old girl married to 40-year-old man

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Pakistan
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Zephyr

    I like the comments of Mr. Munter. What needs to be done is "reaching out, talking to people, knowing what was going on,” Munter said. “So just as the diplomats, like Chris Stevens, need to go out and find out the information, to listen, to figure out what's going on, the security people also need to get out. You can't hide behind a wall.”
    Majority of the Intel collected and presented is done without physical presence on ground and without the knowledge of local cultures written by someone who read few books, articles and thinks they are master of subject and create reports which can lead to a false impression about the target.

    February 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Reply
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      September 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  2. Kal

    Pakistan's biggest problem is its 90% ethnic punjabi speaking army which controls every thing, against other minority ethnic groups like Sindhi and Baloch. Pakistan occupied Balochistan back in 1947-48 without agreement of people of Balohistan. Pakistani ethnic army refused to share with Bengali people finally the broke away as Bangladesh, last 65 years they trying to keep Balochistan as one of their provinces by gunpoint and slow genocide of local Baloch people, The finall and most bloody army operation still going on today in Balochistan, this time army and isi of punjab were sucessful by creating a local religious proxy who is helping them to abduct torture and kill local Baloch youth. On the blood of these people Pakistan army selling resources to china while getting billions of dollars from United State, Pakistani isi heavily involved in massacre of shia population in Quetta by their sunni proxies, to create a situation so they can internationlly justify open army operations in Balochistan. Pakistan army recently handed over Gwadar port of Balochistan to china without the agreement of local people while bullet riddled bodies of Baloch students are being thrown on daily basis. Pakistan is being run by only one ethnic group Muslim Punjabi, the democracy is just puppet show of these uniform ethnic group. International community should realize this ethnic cleansing policy of Pakistan army towards other non Punjabi minorities and should deal with accordingly.

    February 21, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • startv12345

      Kal....the problem lies in landlords and feudals like your Baloch Lords who blackmailed the governments for years. Taking billions in government handouts and then not spending on the local population. The tribal culture in Balochistan is the worst you will find anywhere. How come your leaders can stay lavishly for years outside Pakistan and then the poor people suffer back home?

      February 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Reply
      • kal

        Startv You don't know nothing about Balochistan stop beating old drums , people are being killed today are not sardars and landloards , they middle class Baloch youth being targeted because you can't fool them in the name Islam, that's why in isi in their tortucher camps brand them US, Indian and Israeli agents before killing and dumping their bodies'

        February 22, 2013 at 1:48 am |
    • Sam

      You make it sound like you are a Pakistan expert but then your first sentence starts with a completely false statement. Pashtuns/Ethnic Afghans are the second biggest minorities in Pakistan (about 20-25%). Look up Durand line. Parts of Afghanistan (including Balochistan) was occupied by British, and when they created Pakistan in 1947 they included this part into it despite Afghanistan's resistances to it.

      February 21, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      Balochistan region is a very rich in natural resources. Pakistanis Sunni have been taking away Balochistan's resources to make profit for themselves but are systematically killing Balochistan Shiite Hazara people when they demand a piece of that profit. The plight of the people of Balochistan is heart wrenching. Awareness about oppression and genocide of people of Balochistan by Pakistanis should be raised as much as possible.

      February 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  3. Erik

    I am an American and I just returned from a business trip to Karachi and Lahore. I was wary of going threre bercause all I ever hear about Pakistan on the news usually has "bomb", "terrorist", or "Drone Strilke" in the story. Once I was there, I realized there is much more to Pakistan than just the negative aspects Western media ties to it. Karachi is a boon town of economic growth. Everywhere you look, new buildings are going up and trade is being done. Karachi has one of the longest Industrial Zones in the world....over 30km long! A short flight away is Lahore, a city rich in history surrounded by vibrant colors and beautiful mosques and forts. I found the people in both cities to be amazingly open and friendly. The above article states that , "74% [of Pakistanis] view America as an enemy". Of the hundreds of people I met while I was there, only one person expressed this sentiment to me. I think Pakistan has gotten a bad rap in the media and I would challange the next person,who thinks the only thing they need to know about it is that is was the hiding place of Osama bin Ladin, to go there and experience all Pakistan has to offer for themselves, or at least take the time to learn about many of the positive things going on there, instead of just focusing on the bad.

    February 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Marshall

      @Erik - I hope you know about a search engine called Google. I always Google a new place I travel to. You claimed to have visited Karachi. Could you please Google "Karachi violence"? I am not sure when did you visit Karachi because there is daily violence and frequent curfew according to the news found in Google search.

      February 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Reply
      • khan

        Oh, Karachi ? a city of 20 million with 5-10 killings per day. Do you think that murder rate of Karachi is way higher than US ?

        February 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
      • Adjkt

        What a stupid response... If you include the word "violence" in your search, what do you expect to find?

        February 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
      • Aman

        Its wrong news you have Mr.Marshall.. there is no curfew here daily... SOme political Partieas and some foriegn countries agnencies are involves in thies acts .

        February 25, 2013 at 2:55 am |
    • James

      I have the same experience, and 100% agree with the comments of Erik, media should cover their good things as well,

      February 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • Kamran Yar Khan

      Well said.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:01 am | Reply
    • Jim Warden

      Congratulations on your visit to Pakistan and keep your head attached to the rest of you body till your return to civilization. You may not know this, but an American journalist Dan Pearl was beheaded in Karachi because he was a Jew.
      Pakistan persecutes minorities with impunity with its government's blessings.
      Good try loser.
      Jim W.

      February 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  4. Marshall

    @Erik - Perhaps Australians should read your message. For some strange reason, Australia believes that a massive genocide of Shiites continues to persist in Pakistan. Therefore, Australia is offering asylum to Pakistani Shiites to save their lives from murderous Pakistanis. You must have magical powers because Pakistanis did not harm you but chose to murder their own Shiite people instead. Did you go to Pakistan to sell them the Brooklyn bridge?

    February 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  5. Zia

    Well the real problem is infact proper reach out which is not happening and I hope with softening of tone by the US Govt. things might start working well. US politicians are under the influence of an unfortunate Indian propaganda machinery – the relations between Pakistan and the USA has to be seen out of Indian influence. India has been masterminding anti Pakistan propaganda in the west and the USA. This is unfortunate that the USA is under the Indian influence so much that Pakistan Army feels shy of coming out in confidence, talking to their partners in the war on terror. But see US-Pakistan relation in the back drop of cold war days no denying it was Pakistan, supporting the interests of the USA while contrary to that Indians were in the lap of Soviet Union. After the fall of Soviet Union political scenario changes, a new boom for Pakistanis start in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia – this was the turning point where US could have influenced Pakistan against the ever growing Saudi influence. The vested elements in the House of Saud reached out with their radical thought finding a base of extremism in Pakistan – this was the beginning of elements related to al-Qaeda. Extremism is on the rise in Pakistani and needs to be countered with patience, effort and education.
    For now USA needs to take some careful confidence building measures – the recent overtures of Iranians is another headache which has to be countered with a balanced approach.

    February 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  6. Jim

    Pakistani Sunni people have been relentlessly killing Shia and Ahmadi minorities. Earlier this year, an Ahmadi wrote a very touching article about how his new year's resolution was simply to stay alive among his countrymen in Pakistan. Can you imagine that a man wishing for a basic and fundamental human right to stay alive? While was difficult to believe the condition of minorities in Pakistan especially in this day and age, but his fears were confirmed when killings of Shiite Hazara escalated.

    February 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  7. raj

    its all about the people who live in and run the country you will find factions and groups of varied nature and class its all about what we believe in and what type of society we wish to live in future if you are from a hardliner belief you think you and your group is the best your religion practice is on top and you tend to preach the same to others every country has faced the same challenges in their history some still stuggling to come out of the vicious cycle of the same... think again a bloodshed cant be a reply to a bloodshed... its chilling to see some cold blood murders and massacers...

    February 22, 2013 at 1:08 am | Reply
  8. billy

    The people are uneducated and ruled by Islam and it will never change. Get out of Pakistan and give no more money
    as it just goes to the ruling class. The people hate us, why are the US leaders so stupid as to not see this????

    February 22, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
  9. Jim

    Genocide of Shiites and Ahmadis by Pakistani people needs to stop. UN needs to impose tight sanctions on Pakistan. While Australia is extending humanitarian help by offering asylum, the UN and the rest of the world also need to take actions against Pakistanis who are simply murdering innocent minorities in the name of Allah.

    February 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  10. Onno Legare

    The way of life in Muslim countries must sad, boring, and downright dangerous if its an extremist version of Islam.

    February 25, 2013 at 4:06 am | Reply
  11. Babita

    I just wish indians/indian born journalists or whoever it is in cnn or even the indian bloggers here posing as americans or others are kept out while covering Pakistan because they have always maligned instead of praising the sacrifice made by the pakistani people and soldiers in keeping terror out of the u.s & the world in the u.s led war against terror.

    February 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply
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