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Pakistan | Pakistan's U.S. ambassador changes tune

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, has a few critical words for the United States: In a Wall Street Journal column on April 29, he said, "The change of administration in the U.S. has slowed the flow of assistance to Pakistan. Unfortunately, ordinary Pakistanis have begun to wonder if our alliance with the West is bringing any benefits at all."

Haqqani calls the threat of the Taliban taking over nuclear-armed Pakistan a "gross exaggeration" and admonished the U.S. media for "panicked reactions" over Taliban advances. But in 2008, while co-chair of the Hudson Institute's Islam and Democracy Project and associate professor at Boston University, Haqqani told WORLD that the influx of suicide bombings reflected "the government's total inability to contain terrorism" despite massive assistance from the West. "Obviously they are doing something wrong," Haqqani added (see "Credibility test," Jan. 26, 2008).

Little has changed since then (except now the Taliban has sanctuary in the Swat Valley thanks to legislation approved under Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari), yet Haqqani's tone has changed to one of faith in Pakistan's leadership and tactics-and frustration with the United States for slowing down the transfer of aid.

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The RAND Corporation's Christine Fair, a senior political analyst and friend of Haqqani, says there are two Husain Haqqanis: "There's professor Husain and there's ambassador Husain, and the things he said when he was not ambassador are starkly different from the things he says as ambassador." Unlike Haqqani, she is concerned about Pakistan's ability to ward off Taliban advances and points out that the former Haqqani was actually very critical of the history of U.S. aid to Pakistan's military.

The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would fast track up to $500 million in emergency aid to Islamabad, and Haqqani would also like to see the United States share its modern technology with the Pakistani military.

"I'm sympathetic to the argument that we need to help Pakistan where we can," Fair said. "The problem is that without reformers-people who are dedicated to change-we are wasting our money." But she also acknowledges the possibility that perhaps the situation would be much worse in Pakistan without the pipeline of U.S. funding.

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