For much of its short seventy-year history, Pakistan has managed to thoroughly mismanage its strategic relationships with great power patrons, regional competitors, and non-state clients. It has waged and lost four wars with a larger and more powerful India, supported terrorist organizations that have destabilized Afghanistan and conducted deadly attacks in neighboring India, and alienated its long-time American ally.
Pakistan’s military and intelligence leadership—the country’s decisive elements—view the United States as a danger to be managed and a resource to be exploited. Its approach to bilateral relations is predicated on three things: The (correct) belief that U.S. interlocutors do not understand the region; the conviction that, eventually, the U.S. will leave Afghanistan; and Pakistan’s need for hegemony over Afghanistan—not only to check India’s strategic moves but, more importantly, to guarantee Pakistan’s internal cohesion.
Last April, Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, a distinguished diplomat, summarized American policy toward Pakistan. “Every time a new administration in Washington comes to office,” he said, “they get worried about Pakistan, which has a stockpile of nuclear weapons. The US Secretary of State then visits Pakistan and meets the top leadership.