LAHORE, Pakistan — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a visit meant to improve relations with Pakistan, strongly suggested Thursday that some Pakistani officials bore responsibility for allowing Al Qaeda terrorists to operate from safe havens along this country’s frontier.
“I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are, and couldn’t get to them if they really wanted to,” she said to a group of Pakistani journalists on her second day here. “Maybe that’s the case; maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know.”
It is extremely rare for an official of Mrs. Clinton’s rank to say publicly what American politicians and intelligence officials have said in more guarded ways for years. The remarks upset her hosts, who have had hundreds of soldiers and civilians killed as Pakistan has taken on a widening campaign against certain militant groups that have threatened the state from the country’s tribal areas.
But they gave voice to the long-time frustration of American officials with what they see as the Pakistani government’s lack of resolve in rooting out not only Al Qaeda but also the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, and a host of militant groups that use the border region to stage attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Mrs. Clinton’s statement was only one of several pointed remarks on issues ranging from security to poor tax collection during a day in which she ran into a wall of distrust and mostly hostile questioning in public appearances intended to soothe relations, suggesting she was no longer willing merely to listen to Pakistan’s grievances.
Listening patiently to a litany of grievances from journalists about American policies, Mrs. Clinton said, “I am more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States.” But she said the relationship had to be a “two-way street.”
Good for her.