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US working to improve image in Pakistan

08 October, 2011

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WASHINGTON: American diplomats in Pakistan are trying to reach out to the Pakistani people in a major effort to improve the low public opinion about the United States in the country, the State Department said.

"We are concerned about the public opinion polling numbers in Pakistan," said spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

The comments came as the US-led forces continue to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, ten years after the coalition invaded the landlocked country on October 7, 2001 in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since then the conflict in Afghanistan has affected Pakistan direly as Islamabad fought al Qaeda and Taliban militants who crossed into Pakistan from across the porous Afghan border, facing retaliatory bombings on Pakistani cities, while the conflict-like situation has also battered American image among the people. The spokesperson told the daily briefing that the US continues to engage Pakistanis at various levels to work on "absolutely essential" issues.

"This has been one of the key focuses of our Embassy in Islamabad, to try to give an accurate picture to a broad cross-section of Pakistanis about all that we have tried to do as a nation to support Pakistan's own democratic reform efforts, education in Pakistan, quality of life, micro-lending, economic projects. It's sometimes hard to permeate, given the intense emotions about other aspects of the relationship."

Nuland did not name "other" aspects of the relationship but recent polls and Pakistani experts suggest that contentious dimensions of the fight against terrorism like the US drone strike against al Qaeda elements hiding on the Pakistani tribal territory, a tilt toward India, massive retaliatory terrorist bombings on Pakistani citizens and frequent allegations against Pakistan for shortcomings in Afghanistan, fuel anti-Americanism in the country.

Pakistan, which also serves as the vital route for US and NATO supplies to landlocked Afghanistan, has lost around 35,000 lives to terrorist bombings. The relations between the two allies began to sour this year with the Raymond Davis episode after the CIA contractor killed two young men and worsened after the unilateral American action against Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.


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