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Where next for the US and Pakistan?

12 July 2011

8:58 AM

12 July 2011

8:58 AM

The US-Pakistani relationship is fast deteriorating. In May, I argued that unless
President Asif Ali Zardari took decisive action against the ISI, the country’s military would
continue to undermine relations with the West. Last week, the New York Times reached the
same conclusion
, calling for the removal of Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. As President Zardari did nothing — probably fearing a military coup if he did act — the situation
has merely been aggravated.

What’s more, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the US could suspend military aid to Pakistan unless it took unspecified steps to help find and fight terrorists. And the White House
has since confirmed that it is doing just that. In William Daley’s words:

"They’ve taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we’re giving to the military, and we’re trying to work through that."

In truth, some of the aid to Pakistan, like night-vision goggles, radios and helicopter spare parts, cannot be sent because Pakistan has denied visas to the American trainers needed to deliver and
install the equipment. But the Pakistan military has voluntarily given up other equipment in a fit of pique. And both military sales and development aid to Pakistan have apparently not been

The Pakistani military has met the suspension of assistance with bravado, claiming that ‘in the past as well as at present, has conducted successful military operations using its own resources
without any external support whatsoever.’ They may be hoping that China could supplant the US as the preferred supplier either of weapons or funds to buy weapons on the world markets. But behind
the scenes, the military leadership will surely know better. Without US support, the Pakistani military will struggle to match India’s conventional superiority — and will therefore come to
rely increasingly on its nuclear deterrent, which it finds inadequate.

Will this make them relent and seek rapprochement? Possibly not. The same kind of self-destructiveness that characterised Pakistan’s security policy in the last decade still has many proponents
inside the Pakistani military leadership. And, in the United States, the amount of people fed up with Pakistan — from Congress to the CIA to the Pentagon — is growing daily. It may be
hard to reinstate the funds to Pakistan now that they have been taken away. This will be a bumpy ride.

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