US Ambassador to Pakistan to Step Down

Posted May 8th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter is to step down later this summer after serving almost two years in the diplomatic post.

A U.S. officials said Tuesday that Munster had been considering to stay for another year but decided to move on. The official denied speculations that the move was related to poor a relationship with Islamabad and Washington.

Media reports suggest that a senior diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Afghanistan, Richard Olson, will likely succeed Munter. Olson has orchestrated U.S. development and economic activities in Afghanistan since June 2011.

Munter, who was sworn in as ambassador to Islamabad in October 2010, is leaving at a time of worsening U.S.-Pakistani relations triggered by a series of bilateral crises. They include Pakistan's arrest of a CIA contractor in early 2011, the top secret U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011 in northern Pakistan and ongoing U.S. drone strikes in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

But the event that plunged the already tense ties into a diplomatic deadlock was the NATO air strike last November that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistani officials demanded an unconditional apology for the strike. After the U.S. refused, Islamabad retaliated by cutting off NATO ground supply routes to international forces in Afghanistan.

In return, the U.S. withdrew as much as $3 billion of promised military aid.

Islamabad also demanded an end to drone strike, arguing they are counter-productive because they kill civilians, exacerbate anti-U.S. sentiment and violate sovereignty.

Washington says the strikes are crucial to defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban.