Did Kerry wander off the reservation in Pakistan?

posted at 11:08 am on May 18, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I wrote that John Kerry’s trip to Pakistan to smooth relations after the Osama bin Laden raid was perhaps not Mission: Impossible, but certainly Mission: Highly Unlikely.  It turns out to be the former, complete with the standard disavowal from the Secretary — in this case, the Secretary of State.  Hillary Clinton made her displeasure known with Kerry’s diplomatic efforts, Kirit Radia reports for ABC:

There appears to be a disconnect between what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator John Kerry, D-MA, are saying about U.S. relations with Pakistan. Administration officials, and Secretary Clinton, don’t seem particularly pleased by his recent effort in Islamabad.

Yesterday during his visit there Kerry touted that relations between Washington and Islamabad had been “re-set” after the surprise US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

Yet today, when asked whether US-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 US-Pakistan statement (administration officials insist this was Kerry freelancing).

It seems that the administration may not have had a problem with Kerry’s trip to Pakistan as a back-channel effort to lower tensions.  They did object to Kerry arranging a statement that supposedly spoke for the executive branch.  Clinton’s statement emphasizes his role as legislative, not executive, and otherwise contradicts what Kerry claims as progress almost entirely.

The Pakistanis have attempted to get the US off of their backs by claiming to have arrested a key al-Qaeda figure.  It doesn’t appear to be anyone of intense interest, however:

The Pakistani military described Muhammad Ali Qasim Yaqub, also known as Abu Sohaib al Makki, as a “senior al Qaida operative,” though there was some debate about his importance.

“The indications are that he is a midlevel al Qaida operative who may have been involved in operations,” said a U.S. official in Washington who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The arrest appeared to be a Pakistani effort to show the United States that it would go after al Qaida and Taliban extremists who’ve taken refuge in Pakistan. It came a day after Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said here that the U.S. and Pakistan had agreed to try to reset their relations after the bin Laden raid, which angered and humiliated Pakistan’s military and raised questions in the U.S. about Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorism.

Islamabad has apparently told the US to reduce the number of military trainers in Pakistan to mollify anger over the OBL mission.  However, Pakistan has bigger problems on its hands today.  Apparently not waiting to see whether they could exploit the split between Washington and Islamabad, radical Islamist terrorists stormed a North Waziristan military position today, killing two policemen but leaving 15 of their own number dead as well in the five-hour battle:

Two policemen and 15 militants were killed in the assault that began when heavily armed insurgents, bearing rockets and light artillery, rushed the post at Sangu Mera on the outskirts of the city and near the Khyber region of Pakistan’s lawless tribal area, said the city’s police chief, Liaqat Khan.

After a nearly five-hour battle and deployment of reinforcements to assist the police and paramilitary soldiers stationed at the post, the militants were pushed back “dragging bodies of their men,” Mr. Khan said.

The checkpoint was recently installed to protect Peshawar from an increase in attacks by militants against security forces, Mr. Khan said.

The fight between the security forces and the militants came less than 24 hours after the Pakistani army announced the arrest of an operative of Al Qaeda in the southern port city of Karachi.

That seems like pretty bad timing on the part of the Islamists.  It comes as a clear reminder to the Pakistanis that the radicals are a poor choice over a partnership with the US, no matter how angry they are over the raid.


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