As a sign of deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari voiced hopes that the United States and Pakistan could establish “clear terms of engagement.” Clearly acknowledging the Abottabad raid that netted Osama bin Laden, Zardari expressed frustration at the remarkable gray area that plagues Pakistani-American relations:
In the absence of well-defined and documented terms of engagements, wrong plugs may be pulled at the wrong times by any side that could undermine the bilateral relations…
Terms of engagement should be clearly defined and specified so that any dispute could be settled amicably through the available institutions.
Zardari also mentioned that he would like to see more communication concerning drone strikes, although this is not likely to happen unless there are serious repercussions put on the table by Pakistan.
The United States has essentially laughed in the face of Pakistan whenever the issue has been discussed. In the immediate aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, both the Pakistani government and Pakistani people were outraged at America’s lack of respect for Pakistani sovereignty. In a poll from the Pew Research Center, an astonishing 63% of Pakistanis disapproved of the raid, despite 55% of Pakistanis disapproving of al-Qaeda. Couple those polling numbers with 62% of Pakistanis disapproving of American counterterrorism efforts, the conclusion that can be drawn is pretty sensible: bin Laden represented resistance to the great, American superpower, despite his own atrocious misgivings.
Unfortunately, the idea that Pakistan must be scrutinized and brutalized in order to mitigate or eliminate the “never ending” terrorist threat is so firmly engrained in the intelligence establishment’s mode of thought that any reduction in anti-American hostilities seems farfetched unless conventional wisdom is challenged. We will continue to bomb, shoot, photograph, and set up fake vaccine clinics until the nearly-failed state is firmly and completely under the thumb of the United States. Unless, of course, Pakistan decides to take a firm stand.
While $800 million of the Pakistani gravy train has been halted, two thirds of it remain unaffected. Both countries remain in a delicate balance: Pakistan is strategically vital to winning the war in Afghanistan while Pakistan cooperation ensures that the bills are paid and the guns are bought. President Obama and the rest of the gang in Washington need Pakistan just as much as Pakistan needs America, if not more so. Expulsion of American forces, contractors, and other mercenaries would be a repudiation of America’s militarized foreign policy that has ruled the establishment for much of the 20th and 21st century. The embarrassment would be worse than Benjamin Netanyahu’s public rebuke of Obama’s farcical peace deal. Pakistan would also suffer a debilitating blow, but for a country that is already considered a failed state by many, this would be a fraction of the devastation.
Once Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal becomes an imminent concern, things could get downright ugly.