ISLAMABAD - The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, is to step down this summer after serving less than two years in the job, a US official said Tuesday.
The official said it was the ambassador’s decision to go and denied a press report speculating the move was related to poor relationships with Islamabad. “He is not being sacked, he has decided to move on,” the official told AFP. “He maintains good relations with both Pakistan and the US government. It’s his decision alone. There’s no dissatisfaction with his performance from Pakistan or Washington,” the official added.
Other people close to the ambassador say he has been frustrated that the CIA and Pentagon call the shots for the United States in Pakistan, and that he feels his job has been to contain the fallout rather than set policy.
Analysts were taken aback, warning his departure could complicate efforts to repair alliance with the US and reopen NATO supply into Afghanistan that Islamabad shut five months ago in protest at the 24 soldiers’ deaths. News of Munter’s move emerged with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in India, where she called on Islamabad to do more against militants in comments likely to antagonise Pakistan, which says it has already sacrificed more than any other nation.
Munter arrived in the country in October 2010, after his predecessor Anne Patterson spent more than three years in Pakistan. The US official said the ambassador would be leaving “this summer at the end of his two-year tenure”.
In his talks in Washington, Munter has advocated doing more to repair ties with Pakistan, arguing widespread anti-US sentiment in the country is a sign not of hostility to the US but of disappointment with the results of the relationship.
In Pakistan, he has been determined to improve America’s public image, travelling widely in a bid to meet as many ordinary Pakistanis as possible.
Sources said Munter was perhaps most inclined to accommodate Pakistani concerns with regard to hot issues such as drone attacks and Pakistani demand for a US apology over Salala attack.
With Pak-US ties straining to the point of rupture, Munter appeared to take a soft, diplomatic line over the Hafiz Saeed bounty issue last week in what is often termed in diplomatic circles as localitis or clientitis, a crude term for a sympathetic hearing for the host country, as many envoys are bound to do. He was reported telling the Pakistani media that the US government did not announce any bounty or head money on Saeed and the matter had been misreported.
Among the names being bandied around to succeed Munter is Richard Olson. Like Munter, Olson is a career foreign service officer.