NATO Strike and US Pakistan Relations
The year did not have to end on a low note in US Pakistan relations for the sake of solution to the Af Pak problem leading up to the Bonn Summit. The death of 25 Pakistan soldiers in a NATO attack in Mohmand tribal agency has sent Pakistan public opinion in a tizzy. Not that relations between the two were getting any better after the Osama killing in Abbotabad earlier this year. As per Bruce Reidel, the distrust between the two had largely been growing because of double dealing by Pakistan which was responsible for a fair number of ISAF killings in Afghanistan. Then there was the Raymond Davis affair, Mike Mullen’s “veritable arm” comment about the ISI, attack on the US embassy on Kabul and the “memogate” scandal. All these are not signs of allies going into a war on terror.
Pakistan Army still reeling under the humiliation of the Abbotabad raid and the attack on Mehran Naval Base has been hard pressed to explain its control over the nation’s security to the nation. If US Pakistan relation is “need based” as explained by ISI Chief Shuja Pasha, then nurturing it in an environment of mutual distrust is all the more dangerous for both the sides. It is this very humiliation of the armed forces that shall see the extent of leverage being exercised over the Americans in ensuring it saves face on one hand and gets the nation behind it by bringing anti Americanism to the fore. So purely from this point of view the army will play to the gallery to extract maximum mileage from the incident. The public opinion in Pakistan is that of intense rage at being hit and the army would encash this sentiment to tighten its grip over the NATO alliance. Pakistan has also threatened to boycott the Bonn Security Conference where the fate of neighboring Afghanistan is to be discussed – something it was already mulling over as it gives Pakistan more time.
The US Pakistan relation is based on three basic premises of Security, Afghan reconciliation and military and development aid. The intense reaction to this attack has put all these in a jeopardy – to the short term advantage of Pakistan. Axiomatically security along the Durand Line has been largely compromised and the Taliban would be intensely motivated and assisted by ISI to take on American targets in the revenge mode – and all this in with a straight face while pressurising the West to keep the aid coming. The closing of supply routes has happened before and these shall be opened again albeit at a greater cost.
In sum the incident has thrown open vast opportunities for the Pakistan Army to bolster its battered image and tighten its grip at home and in Afghanistan. It will seek greater quid pro quo as the US needs Pakistan’s support till 2014 and Pakistan remains dependent on development and military aid from the US. Thus apparently the conditions are ripe for Pakistan army to leverage its”rogue” status to squeeze America – something Obama will have to contend with.
China and Russia have condemned the attack and asked US to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan even while fighting the militants. China has a lot at stake in Afghanistan as it has come into Afghanistan for economic reasons post US departure. This has to have had Obama clearance and shows Kayani’s clout with USA as well as Pakistan forward thinking. The significance of the fact that while Pakistan is a US ally in Afghanistan but with very strong Chinese backing can not be diluted. China thus will have a major role to play in the resumption of “Business as Usual”.
For the militant Taliban this is a shot in the arm as they would receive greater support from Pakistan Army and the ISI to bolster their cause to build pressure on the US. The ISI would be pleased to extend its proxy war against high profile American targets. That, apart from the Army’s renewed centrality in Pakistan, may be the worst takeaway of the incident. However, despite all the brouhaha there is little prospect of the U.S. and Pakistan breaking off ties, as both know their symbiosis is mandatory for each other – at least temporarily.
- Us-pakistan Relations (socyberty.com)
- When NATO is the Enemy: Pakistan Seethes After the Attack – TIME (time.com)
- After NATO strike, can US-Pakistan relations be patched up one more time? – Christian Science Monitor (csmonitor.com)
- Pakistan Halts Supplies to US’s Afghanistan Troops After NATO Air Strike – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Pakistan-U.S. Ties Suffer a Setback After NATO’s Attack (time.com)
- NATO: Pakistan resumes some cooperation (cbsnews.com)
- STRATFOR on the latest strain in US/Pakistan relations (aleksandreia.wordpress.com)