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Pakistan: Complex Relations With The Us

Paul Stevenson

June 22, 2012

The NATO summit in Chicago gave us another glimpse into the fraught relations between the US and Pakistan. US president Barack Obama invited Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari to the summit then refused a private meeting. The next day Obama demanded Pakistan remain onside with US goals in Afghanistan.

This official snub is a product of an incoherent US policy towards Pakistan. On the one hand, Pakistan is seen as central to US designs in Afghanistan and on the other, the US is loathe to give Pakistan a real say in the process of imposing control on the Afghan people.

Pakistan for its part is much more concerned with increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan. It fears that a government in Afghanistan with strong ties to India may undermine its control over the tribal areas from Baluchistan and in the North West Frontier provinces. A strong Taliban is seen as a helpful deterrent to Indian ambitions.

This, of course runs at odds with the stated goals of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, which include weakening the Taliban to maintain US dominance through the government of Hamid Karzai. This conflict between the two states has been exacerbated by the continuing drone strikes inside Pakistan. Since the NATO summit, the US has ramped up its use of drones and hundreds of Pakistanis have been killed.

Pakistan has cut off NATO supply lines and the US has reacted to the jailing of Shakil Afridi—a Pakistani doctor who worked with the CIA to help find Osama Bin-Laden—by cutting military funding by $33 million or one million dollars for each year Afridi is in prison.

The rift in the relationship between Pakistan and the US will only continue to grow. Inside Pakistan anger at the US drone attacks and increasing US military presence has resulted in major domestic revolt. Pakistan cannot continue to do the biding of the US without seriously weakening the government. In essence, the requirements are far too great and so deeply unpopular that any Pakistan government that continues to support the US does so at tremendous risk.

The US must stop the attacks on the people of Pakistan or they will result in a broader rebellion that will make the Afghan war look easy.

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