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Time for a U.S./Pakistan Divorce?
Posted by on May 14th, 2011

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The fallout from the US raid which killed Osama binLaden continues, with the head of Pakistan's I.S.I. intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, lashing out at the United States before his country's parliament. Following closely on a widespread new appreciation of Pakistan's double game and Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani's blaming the U.S. for a "trust deficit" between the two nations, relations between the two "allies" may be at an all-time low.

Now, there's a resolution in their parliament asking Pakistani leaders to consider ending a NATO transit route for forces in Afghanistan - a perennial lever, as it gets shut down every time there's the slightest dispute between the US and Pakistan. It's no longer as essential to NATO supply lines as it once was though, since the constant disruptions long ago led to development of routes through Russia and its former states. However, someone in the Pakistani defense establishment feels the need to up the ante even further, an anonymous "senior official" who is has now called the alliance between the US and Pakistan a "forced marriage" and said there should be a divorce.

As country’s top military commanders and intelligence heads briefed the joint-session of the parliament on Abbotabad debacle in a closed-door sitting on Friday, senior defense officials said Islamabad was most likely to “get divorce from his rude ally (US).”

A senior official familiar with the developments taking place in the backdrop of the killing of bin Laden said that trust is the key to successful relations. “When you lose trust, you may lose relationship. Respectable separation is far better than disregarded relations,” he insisted.

Referring to the US mindset depicted in a recent media report titled ‘Obama ordered troops to fight their way out of Pakistan’ he said: “It shows the level of brinkmanship adopted by President Obama.” This also shows how quickly the US can turn an ally into an enemy, he warned.

“For them, there is hardly any respect for the sovereignty of other countries. In this particular case if Pakistan would have shown any reaction, it might have resulted into a war between Pakistan and the US. We must revisit our policy,” the official reiterated.

Revisiting policy wouldn't be a bad idea for American policymakers either – even if it's made a less likely prospect by the entailing need for an embaraqssing about-face after their bi-partisan public support for Pakistan over the years. In a must-read piece for the New Yorker, Lawrence Wright lays out many of the reasons the US should look askance at its "ally" – including several like supporting terror groups and militants killing US troops or having a dangerously destabilizing nuclear weapons program that got Iran sanctions while pakistan got billions in military aid – and writes:

 If the measure of our aid is the gratitude of the Pakistani people and the loyalty of their government, then it has clearly been a failure. Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that half of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. gives little or no assistance at all. Even the Finance Minister, Hafiz Shaikh, said last month that it was “largely a myth” that the U.S. had given tens of billions of dollars to Pakistan. And if the measure of our aid is Pakistan’s internal security, the program has fallen short in that respect as well. Pakistan is endangered not by India, as the government believes, but by the very radical movements that the military helped create to act as terrorist proxies.

Doing the same thing over and over when it is proven not to work is one definition of insanity, and by any measure sending ransom money to Pakistan is not serving the American national interest. If Pakistan wants a divorce, it should be granted.

Update: Ashley J. Tellis, currently of the Carnegie Endowment and formerly senior advisor to the US Ambassador to India, thinks that Pakistan's concern about its sovereignty being violated by the OBL raid is a smokescreen:

 “Even as you read this”, he says, “you can be certain that the ISI is reviewing its tradecraft, assessing its vulnerabilities, and moving and burying its assets more deeply than before. This is a cat and mouse game and the ISI is very good at playing it”.

As he says, "If some elements of the Pakistani state, in fact, sheltered Bin Laden, as is likely, then the issue is not sovereignty, but a violation of international responsibility."

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