U.S. Diplomat Gerry Feierstein in Pakistan: 'Prevent Extremism in the First Place'

Do the policymakers in Washington understand that?

"When I came in the '70s, this was actually the largest [USAID] program in the world. ... But that was always kind of a secondary attribute. But what's happened now I think is the two issues have come together. Today, there is a recognition that in order to succeed in the larger regional peace, we have to succeed internally in Pakistan. And that it's not only Pakistan's strategic position, but it is Pakistan as a kind of key actor overall. And if we succeed in developing security and stability and economic development here in Pakistan, that that in fact will have very positive repercussions throughout the region -- Afghanistan, India and elsewhere throughout the world. Today, where we are is recognizing that Pakistan is the key to an awful lot of this puzzle. ...

"This time, if we've made a decision that Pakistan is important, that we really need to make a commitment to stay the course and to really stay engaged with Pakistan in a way that we haven't in the past. ... And I do believe that is a fair statement across the board, [including] at DoD, which obviously has critical interests here."

You say there's not as much interaction between American sand Pakistanis as there once was. But it seems that there's a genuine desire among Pakistanis to meet foreigners, no?

"This is one of the most accessible societies in the world. I've always made the observation that no matter what people think of you, whether they like you or don't like you, they're more than happy to have you over to their house and have a cup of tea, and delighted to sit down and tell you everything you've done wrong, or doing wrong. But it's always extremely gracious and cordial. ... What's changed is that our associations tend to be a lot more superficial now. ... Because of all these other aspects, you don't get out, you don't meet the people in the shops, you don't meet the people in the galleries, you don't have the interactions with the broader society we used to have. And that's really where the friendships are and where the real sense that you get of actually being part of the community and actually being integrated into the culture and the society. That part is missing, unfortunately."

Does that help produce the current wave of anti-Americanism we're seeing now?

"There is a historical narrative of U.S.-Pakistan relations that most people in this country have absorbed -- of the United States using Pakistan and then walking away from Pakistan when it became no longer important or inconvenient. It's not the whole story, but it is the story that many people feel here. ... It's a reflection of the fact that Pakistanis feel as though we've abandoned them on several occasions, and therefore they're reluctant to once again take that step of getting too close to the United States. And, without doubt, there is controversy over the war on terror and some of the decisions we've taken over the years. But I think if we stay engaged, and if we continue to try to get our message out about what it is we're trying to get accomplished in this country, that, over a period of time, those feelings are going to die down some, and we'll be able to get into a much better situation in terms of building understanding between the U.S. and Pakistan."

How has Pakistan changed since you arrived?

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