After touting the "real progress" the U.S. and Pakistan have made in the past 18 months and announcing the first major initiatives in the $7.5 billion U.S. aid package to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is bothered by the negative connotation that US aid still has in some areas of Pakistan.
Clinton, who faced tough questions the last time she conducted a town hall in Pakistan in October, gave her assessment at this latest one in response to a question about the way some Pakistanis view U.S. aid.
"I'm aware of fact that in some parts of Pakistan US aid is not appreciated," she said, "and that bothers me a lot."
"You've got to understand from an American perspective, especially during the economic crisis that we all have encountered and a higher than usual unemployment rate in the U.S., the idea to say an unemployed auto worker or a laid off secretary somewhere in the United States that the aid we provide to a country may not be appreciated raises the question in their minds, 'Well why are you sending money to country that doesnt want it?' So it is a challenge for us. And we are looking for ways to convey our commitment to Pakistan ... with at the same time changing attitudes among those segments of the Pakistani population that either believe or are led to believe that somehow our assistance is either not wanted or disregarded. And I think we have a lot of work to do.
"We have to do better job of conveying what we are doing, and it is our belief that the vast majority of Pakistanis appreciate what we are doing, but as is often the case in any society, a small minority can have a disproportionate influence on the public discourse. I invite your ideas -- what is a better way of conveying that information? We frankly need a dialogue within Pakistani society about that. that makes clear we are trying to help you achieve your goals -- not our goals."
Clinton also said that overcoming the security situation in Pakistan is not one that the military could win alone.
"The answer is for the vast vast majority of Pakistanis who decry violence," she said, "who are dismayed by the activities of what is a relatively small group to turn your backs on them, to deny them any support, to turn them into authorities, to prevent them from metastasizing like the cancer that they are, because in the end it is not up to your military which has sacrificed a lot. ...There is no military victory. There must be a defeat of the ideology and the actions of those who thrive on violence and extremism. So while your military with our help try to go after those who have caused such death and destruction it is really ultimately up to the people of Pakistan."