Pakistan put on notice
An exclusive session: Hillary Clinton with Pakistani civil society
Secretary Clinton is in Kosovo today, and many people there love the Clintons. In the capital, Pristina, Clinton visited an 11-foot statue of her husband Bill, who as U.S. president backed the 1999 NATO air campaign that stopped a crackdown by Serbian forces on Kosovo’s ethnically Albanian majority. When he attended the unveiling of the statue last year, he was greeted with a giant cake bearing his portrait. And, both Hillary and Bill have been lauded on billboards in Pristina.
Update, 5:09 p.m.: At a “townterview” today, Clinton said the statue’s bronze hair reminds her of how Bill Clinton looked when she first met him, back in the 1970s:
I have to say it’s quite a statue. And my husband — it still looks like he has bronze-colored hair, which I like. Because when I met him — you know we’ve been married as of Monday 35 years — so when I met him when we were in law school, he had very brownish, reddish hair. And the statue reminds me of that, so of course I like the statue. Nobody should paint it white. Don’t paint it white. Keep it that color.
Secretary Clinton blasted Pakistan’s government today for not taxing its rich more, yet expecting developed countries to aid the country. She declared, “It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while the taxpayers of Europe, the United States, and other contributing countries are all chipping in to do our part.”
Clinton made the remarks at a news conference in Brussels with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (seen above) in which they discussed flood-recovery efforts in Pakistan. Clinton mentioned that a stable Pakistan is essential to the fight against terrorism, which is when she started on her pet peeve: poor countries that don’t tax their elite. Here are her demands of the Pakistani government, which you can also listen to in the video below at link:
“We also believe that stability in Pakistan is essential to our shared fight against terrorism and to protect the security of the people of our country and friends and allies like those in Europe. Now, of course, the international community can only do so much. Pakistan itself must take immediate and substantial action to mobilize its own resources, and in particular to reform its economy.”
The most important step that Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms that will expand its tax base. The government must require that the economically affluent and elite in Pakistan support the government and people of Pakistan. We have been very clear on that, and I am pleased that the government is responding. I know how difficult this is, but it is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while the taxpayers of Europe, the United States, and other contributing countries are all chipping in to do our part. The government must also take steps to alleviate the crippling power shortages that stifle economic growth while making life difficult for the Pakistani people.
If U.S. President Barack Obama is having such a hard time repealing the Bush tax cuts on America’s rich, his administration is going to have an even harder time getting another country’s government to increase taxes on its rich (or begin collecting taxes from the rich in the first place). Clinton is certainly right that Pakistan’s elite should pay its fair share of taxes — the rich there pay laughably small amounts or none at all, Clinton pointed out last month. But, the United States has limited influence on the country’s government. Just two weeks ago, Pakistan closed the Torkham Gate crossing into Afghanistan after U.S. forces accidentally killed several Pakistani border guards. The crossing has since been reopened, but the multiday closure held up trucks that supply international forces in Afghanistan. So, who’s really in a position to be calling the shots?
Secretary Clinton said today that she and the U.S. government support reintegration and reconciliation with Taliban members who meet specific criteria. We are “willing to support what’s called reintegration — namely, people on the battlefield coming off and going back into their society — and reconciliation, which is a much more political process to work out terms of peace with people who [have] led the Taliban, but only on very clear conditions,” she told ABC’s Robin Roberts during an interview in Brussels, where she attended a NATO ministerial meeting.
Those “clear conditions” are:
* Renouncing violence and laying down arms.
* Renouncing al Qaeda.
* Abiding by Afghan laws and the Afghan Constitution.
Clinton was cautious with her remarks and said she’s unsure how many Taliban leaders would agree to these conditions. In fact she said, “I think it’s highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile. But stranger things have happened in the history of war, but it can only happen if they [are] willing to abide by the red lines that we and the Afghan government have established.”
Other the other hand, Clinton sounded somewhat optimistic about lower-level Taliban members who likely joined in the first place just to get a paycheck. “I am increasingly convinced that many of the lower-level Taliban, young men who frankly went to fight for the Taliban because they got paid more than they could make anywhere else — I believe that they are, in increasing numbers, laying down their arms and coming back into society.”
She also told Roberts, “What we are seeing is a move by the lower-level fighters, many of them, to leave the battlefield, which is all to the good because they are being convinced that this fight is no longer one they want to be part of.”
Anything about the Taliban joining peace talks or becoming part of the Afghan government will make most Americans nervous. Anyone can pay mere lip service to meeting the three “red line” conditions listed above; how do you tell whether someone isn’t surreptitiously supporting violence and al Qaeda on the side? I also wish Clinton had reiterated that no political reconciliation should come at the price of Afghanistan’s women — which is one of the scariest things about involving the Taliban in peace talks and the government. Back in July during her visit to Kabul, Clinton made it starkly clear that Afghan women can’t be marginalized in the reconciliation process, saying:
” I don’t think there is such a political solution that would be a lasting, sustainable one that would turn the clock back on women. That is a recipe for a return to the kind of Afghanistan — if not in the entire country, in significant parts of the country — that would once again be a breeding ground for terrorism. So we’ve got our red lines, and they are very clear: Any reconciliation process that the United States supports, recognizing that this is an Afghan-led process, must require that anyone who wishes to rejoin society and the political system must lay down their weapons and end violence, renounce al Qaeda, and be committed to the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan, which guarantee the rights of women.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted with rose petals in Lebanon today, but Secretary Clinton has a message that the Iranian president might find less rosy:
The United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon.
Clinton made the remarks, reported by AFP, while in Kosovo. The U.S. government is concerned that Iran is trying to draw Lebanon closer into its orbit and that Iranian support for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon weakens Lebanese sovereignty.
Update, 2:05 p.m.: Here is Clinton’s complete remark on Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon:
With respect to President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon, the United States supports the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon. We are very committed to supporting the Lebanese Government as it deals with a number of challenges in its region. And we would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country.
And I don’t know whether anything I might say would have any influence; I highly doubt it. But I believe that it’s a message that the world needs to convey to the Iranians because of the balance within Lebanon that needs to be maintained.
Secretary Clinton, the e-diplomat, is asking Americans to pick up their cellphones and text “swat” to 20222 to make a $5 donation that will provide (non-governmental subsidized relief) medicine, tents, food, and clothing to the astounding 1.17 million internal refugees who have fled the current fighting in Pakistan (mainly in the Swat Valley). The aid will be provided through the United Nations’ refugee agency.
Clinton made the appeal for donations while announcing that the United States will be providing $110 million in emergency aid to the refugees. Including the 555,000 Pakistanis who were displaced during fighting last August, Pakistan now has nearly 2 million internally displaced people.
You can see photos of what Pakistanis in the Swat Valley are going through in Preeti’s March photo essay: “Pakistan’s New Homeless.”
Photo (ht/): Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images