By Jill Dougherty and Adam Levine
The chill between the United States and Pakistan continues in 2012, a condition that could contribute to a tough start for Pakistan's new ambassador to Washington.
Sherry Rehman will arrive to take up her duties in Washington by the end of the week, a senior Pakistani official confirmed to CNN.
Rehman, a longtime member of Pakistan's ruling People's Party and a confidant of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is a staunch supporter of human rights - a stance that could help in her new position, but she's got her work cut out for her.but she's got her work cut out for her.
Pakistan continues to hold the United States at a distance after the disastrous NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. military admitted error, but not enough to satisfy the Pakistanis whose own investigation offered a different take on what went wrong.
As a result, key supply lines into Afghanistan continue to be shut. The CIA has put its drone program on ice for the time being, it seems, and U.S. military personel left the country late last year at the request of the Pakistanis.
Still, the U.S. needs Pakistan and continues to talk about stabilizing relations. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has been in touch with the Pakistanis, according to the State Department.
"We want to get back to normal and get into a full counterterrorism relationship again," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. "We think that’s important, not only for U.S. security but for Pakistani security and for the security of the entire region. So those conversations will continue."
Rehman’s most critical mission as ambassador is to sell Pakistan as a reliable ally in the fight against militancy and as a deserving recipient of billions of dollars in US aid at a time when Washington is also fast losing trust in Islamabad.
The Pakistanis want money and right now the steady flow of U.S. dollars has been stemmed. Congress recently passed a new defense bill that freezes some $700 million in aid pending assurances that the country working to stop the the manufacture and transport of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs - the hidden bombs that have caused havoc for coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Rehman replaces Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani, who resigned amid alleged links to a secret plot to cut back the powers of Pakistan's military leaders. It is widely believed that the scandal so incensed the military brass that they wanted Haqqani out.