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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 14. Ashfaq Kayani

Fighting chance.

In a cable recently published by WikiLeaks, Anne Patterson, the US ambassador in Islamabad, describes General Ashfaq Kayani, head of the Pakistani army since 2007, as "direct, frank, and thoughtful", tempered by the observation that he smokes heavily and has a "tendency to mumble". In March this year, the general was bold enough to condemn a US drone strike in the tribal district of North Waziristan in which civilians were killed. "Such acts of violence," he declared, "take away from our objective of elimination of terrorism." The killing of Osama Bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad in May will make Kayani's life more difficult, as the Americans are now demanding that he take more robust action against the remnants of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

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This article first appeared in the 09 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The first 100 days