November 28th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

The Reads You Need: The relationship between the U.S., Pakistan

Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on the stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.

Tensions among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States jumped a notch Monday, with Pakistan's prime minister warning there would be "no more business as usual" with Washington after NATO aircraft killed two dozen Pakistan troops.

The Pakistani Taliban urged Pakistan to respond in kind to the airstrike, which NATO called a "tragic unintended" event. The Pakistani military insisted Monday it had not fired first in the incident, and it said it had told NATO its aircraft were firing on friendly troops. Meanwhile, a top adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned that Afghanistan and Pakistan could be on a path to conflict.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in an exclusive interview with CNN Monday that Pakistan was re-evaluating its relationship with the United States.

The relationship between the two countries is a tense but important one to examine. So, today, we'll take a look at what some news outlets and commentators are saying about the future of the relationship and what steps the two countries may have to take to stabilize the increasingly murky and sometimes difficult relationship.

In fog of war, rift widens between U.S. and Pakistan

The New York Times' Steven Lee Myers offers an analysis that looks at the NATO airstrike and how the reactions from both countries reflect "a fundamental truth" about how both are working to secure Afghanistan's borders. Myers says that truth is "tactics of war can easily undercut the broader strategy that leaders of both countries say they share."

"There is no doubt relations are on a knife-edge.

But the apology from Nato and the US will eventually come. Why? Because with American forces pulling out of Afghanistan, Pakistan's role will only become more important. Its roads still supply 49 per cent of the food, fuel and equipment needed by international forces in land-locked Afghanistan.

Both countries need each other more than they like to mention – particularly to their own people.

In Pakistan, the attack has given a weak – but broadly pro-US – government the chance to bolster its nationalist credentials and reassure its public that it is no stooge of Washington. Ministers will shout and scream, and express their outrage. Then, having placated the rabble-rousing opposition leaders, quieted the Islamist marchers and burnished their nationalist colours, they will accept an apology and go back to taking the American dollars.

So too the military. It is the generals who control Afghan policy and it is they who ultimately will decide what comes next. In public they may decry the CIA's drones programme, but they could stop it tomorrow if they wished. Just like the government they are much closer to Washington than they would ever care to admit.

These tensions mean the relationship between the US and Pakistan is in a constant state of crisis. It staggers from one misunderstanding to the next. But that is roughly what passes for normal in this part of the world: this is not the end.

And the dead soldiers, having served their purpose, will be forgotten, mourned only by their families – just as if they had been killed by a militant suicide bomber."

Read the full story here.

Till deaths us do part

A blog in The Economist takes a look at the growing number of incidents that have hampered the relationship between both countries, but why despite all of that the two will probably emerge still on the same side.  The incident occurred, and there's nothing that can change that now, the piece argues. But it will be how both sides handle the issue moving forward that will determine how both the politicians and citizens of each country feel about working with the other.

"Pakistan's deeply troubled relationship with America has survived so many intense provocations this year, it will probably also get over the latest bloody incident. Yet there is no guarantee. At 2am on November 26th helicopters—and perhaps other aircraft—from NATO attacked a Pakistani border position in a remote corner of the Afghan frontier. The bloodiest single strike by NATO (read Americans) on the Pakistani army, it killed 24 soldiers and injured another 13.

A host of leaders from NATO and the United States were quick to admit to the attack, apologise for it and call it a dreadful accident. That was just as well. But for Pakistanis, especially, it will be hard to accept it was a mere blunder. In the past, firing in Pakistan by American forces inside Afghanistan, against Taliban or other forces fleeing there for sanctuary, has killed one or two soldiers on the border. This time, say the Pakistanis, two different buildings, 300 metres apart on two outcrops, were destroyed. The soldiers in each one, many of whom were said to have been sleeping, were 2.5km inside Pakistani territory, and the Americans reportedly had grid-references for these long-established army posts.

The two sides dispute whether there was much activity by Taliban fighters in the area which could have confused (or possibly helped to provoke) the forces which struck inside Pakistan. NATO described enemy activity on the ground, talked of a Taliban training camp in the area, and said the assault took place with permission from up the chain of command. That suggests the nature of the accident was merely (though still unforgivably) technical: to have mistaken the known Pakistani posts for Taliban positions. A darker possibility is that the NATO officers who made the decision to attack, perhaps deeply frustrated by many years of active Pakistani support for Taliban and other fighters who kill Western forces in Afghanistan, were negligent or deliberate in striking the Pakistani armed forces along with their Taliban targets.

What matters now is how the bloody episode is handled, especially by Pakistan’s armed forces and politicians. The immediate outrage expressed by every Pakistani leader is natural enough. Anti-Americanism—more precisely a hatred of their own country’s long involvement in what is seen as “America’s war” against Islamist extremist groups—is intense and widespread. Many in Pakistan have long been fiercely resentful of America’s role in their territory, angry at drone attacks against terrorist leaders that kill civilians too, and, for example, at the case of a CIA man who shot dead two would-be robbers in Lahore, in January. Even the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, in May, drew public anger (fanned by the media, which does much of the bidding of the armed forces) over America’s humiliating disregard for Pakistan's sovereignty.

If the latest killings stir up yet more intense public opposition to America—a big rally on November 27th in Karachi suggested it might—that could suit Pakistan’s various leaders. For a start it makes it easier for them to demand more American aid and assistance to justify prolonging a deeply unpopular working relationship. Just as useful, for Pakistan’s army, is that public anger against the Americans gives it an excuse to put off, yet again, a long-sought military intervention in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network (a violent force that has a sanctuary there, but is active in Afghanistan). Being seen to do the bidding of the Americans, Pakistani leaders can easily say, would be to court an unacceptable level of internal instability."

Read full story here.

The ally from hell

A joint project between The Atlantic and the National Journal takes a look at the longstanding and ever-changing relationship between the two countries. The article, which is touted as "the product of dozens of interviews over the course of six months" declares that Pakistan is the Ally from hell for several reasons. The subhead of the article puts it bluntly: "Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?"

"Shortly after American Navy SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securingPakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security ofPakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistanis an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states asIranandNorth Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen).


Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.

What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and American sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget."

Read the full story here.

soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Hansson

    I will not worry to much... because as Churchill said "Americans usually do the right thing but only after tried all other options"-

    November 28, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jiao

    Peaceful Dude, no matter how many times you change your name and re-post the same crap, that was the best fictional account of Ameri/Paki relations I ever read! Is that an outline for a book? What a great plot…I wonder if the fantasy genre is ready?

    November 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hey

    Pakistan should be worried about if we are angry with them.

    November 29, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Mir

      Why should Pakistan be afraid? America is supposed to be the most democratic and tolerant nations of them all but all we are now is a nation full of ethnocentrics like yourself. Get a grip on reality, America shouldn't be feared and everyone has the right to, yes even Pakistan, speak up against us when we are bullying them.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CCSonny



    November 29, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |


    November 29, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Predator2

      No more uS $$$$$ ?

      November 29, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. tag

    Why???? if someone attack your home and killed your all family members then after that said sorry we thought that they are criminals.. then what your people say for this? are you back to them life????????? its no matter you are Muslim, christian or Hindi.... just think we are human first and we have to act like human not animals

    November 29, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. john

    you can speculate all you want with the situation, but unless u were there to witness what happened you will never know what exactly took place. Im sure the investigation will continue. But how long does it take to realize you are firing on friendly forces? (that is for both sides). And, if you know that they are friendly and shooting, do you continue to shoot? seems like no one just stopped firing or evaded the conflict once it was started. interesting.

    November 29, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Arsi

    America just wants to find an escape goat: which they find in pakistan. And now they are trying to plot against pakistan just to fulfill there agenda. whether it be the Finding of Osama bin Laden, which they most definately fabricated,or the memo gate incident which might be a hoax as well.They just want to bring Pakistan to a point from where they can justify there existence in pakistan.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
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