Advancing a Free Society

Pakistan: Is the War Contractible?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

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Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been going downhill since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Ex ante, it seemed likely that the Pakistan Army had offered some degree of shelter to the world's most wanted terrorist. Ex post, Pakistan has halted U.S. access to a drone base on the Afghan border; cut back on visas for U.S. training missions; and detained a doctor said to have helped U.S. intelligence identify bin Laden's family. In retaliation, the United States is now threatening to withhold $800 million in military aid.

The Pakistan response to this threat throws further light on the status of Pakistan as a U.S. ally in the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. On July 10, 2011, the Financial Times reported:

Lieutenant General (retired) Moinuddin Haider, a former Pakistani interior minister, said that the halt on US aid would further strain the two countries’ relationship and called on the US to reconsider. “This move will only add to the anti-Americanism in our country,” he said.

The following day, Reuters reported:

Politically, [the suspension of aid] would be damaging to the relationship, said Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, retired Major-General Mehmood Durrani said, reflecting a widespread view in Pakistan that it was fighting America's war, for which Washington must reimburse it.

So: Is Pakistan an ally or an enemy? Neither, it seems. There is anti-Americanism, but Pakistan is not an enemy. For Pakistan does make available services and facilities to combat AQ and the Taliban. But Pakistan is not an ally, either.

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