In Pakistan, the United States was dealing with a government that was not always able to deliver, said a former US ambassador, Cameron Munter.
Mr Munter is believed to have left his job because of differences with the Obama administration over its policies towards Islamabad, particularly its decision to increase drone attacks on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
While responding to a question about a $7.5 billion US aid package for Pakistan, the former envoy conceded that the programme did not achieve its targets. “We didn’t get everything done that we wanted to and we should look hard at our systems programme to see where we may have failed,” he said.
“But I think in Pakistan, we also ran into a government that wasn’t always able to deliver.”
Polls show that only eight per cent of Pakistanis view the US as a partner, while 74 per cent view it as an enemy.
“I think it’s very important to look at these numbers and remember that what we’re talking about is a picture the Pakistanis have of us, that they see, in terms of our security policy,” Mr Munter said. “There’s a part of America that the Pakistanis respect very much: our education, our business acumen, our openness and cultural side.”
The US does enjoy good, long-term relationships with Pakistani universities, businesses, and many crucial people-to-people relationships, according to Mr Munter. He suggested that the US should supplement its counter-terrorism efforts with “the commitment to the Pakistani people and to their future, and to stability”.
“We need to have more balance. We worked on it during my time there. I’ll be honest with you; I think we could have done a lot better. I think the Pakistanis could have done a lot better,” he said.
“I think the team that’s there now is trying to do that, to have more outreach, to have more long-term commitment to Pakistan and the needs they have in addition to what we have in counter-terrorism.”
Mr Munter told the Daily Beast that he used to receive calls from the White House to ‘dial up the pain’, and he would tell the US that Islamabad didn’t respond well to ‘dialling up the pain’.
“Look, when you’re dealing with diplomacy, you’re dealing with the idea of listening as well as talking,” Mr Munter said. “A diplomat will want to make sure that in addition to telling America’s story that we’re listening to the other person’s perception so we can come to some sort of agreement.”
The former ambassador said that before the raid on the Abbottabad complex where Osama bin Laden lived and died, his main concern was for the American community overseas.
“We didn’t know what the response would be. I spent a lot of time talking with our team about how we would take care of the people in the embassy and the Americans overseas.”
Did he suspect that the Pakistani government and military would be so enraged? “We didn’t really know what to think,” Mr Munter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
He noted that in 1979, the US embassy in Islamabad was overrun and burned. “You never want to see something like that happen and you want to make sure that you have everything in place in case it does,” he said.