ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today tempered an outburst accusing Pakistan of not doing more to capture al-Qaeda leaders, wrapping up a challenging visit cautiously welcomed in the country.
Clinton is the most senior American official to visit Pakistan since US President Barack Obama put the nuclear-armed Muslim state at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda and made the war in Afghanistan a top priority.
A massive car bomb, killing 118 people and trapping victims under the rubble for days, overshadowed talks and underscored the gravity of the Islamist threat, considered a backlash against the government’s alliance with the US.
Clinton appeared to lose patience during a face-to-face meeting with senior editors yesterday, taking issue with Pakistan’s official line doubting that Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants are in Pakistan.
“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” she had said.
There was no immediate public response from the government, but Clinton modified her remarks Friday during talks with a group of female journalists.
“I said, ‘I don’t know if anyone knows’. We in the US would very much like to see the end of the Al-Qaeda leadership and our best information is they are somewhere in Pakistan,” she said.
“Let’s work together to get that done.” Clinton has focused on trying to strengthen the civilian government and counter rising public anti-Americanism, but has been frustrated by fears here a 7.5-billion-dollar non-military US aid bill violates Pakistan’s sovereignty.