Sen. John Kerry visited Pakistan recently in an attempt to restore relations between the U.S. and Pakistani governments. Tensions between the United States and Pakistan have intensified since the raid in Abbottabad resulting in the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have expressed a commitment to strengthening relations with Pakistan and making sure the relationship is more strategic than transactional moving forward.
U.S. and Pakistani Relations in the Past Decade
U.S. and Pakistani relations prior to the raid in Abbottabad have been tenuous for years. The relationship is complex due to the fact that Pakistan’s government claims to support the war on terror, yet the government and the Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I), Pakistan’s military intelligence group, continues to support certain factions of known terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Pakistani officials deny supporting the Taliban since 9/11; however, U.S. officials suspect the ISI is aiding Pakistan in sheltering known terrorist groups.
Additionally, Pakistani officials expressed frustration over CIA operatives within the country. Pakistan believes the United States is conducting covert CIA activities in the country and not consulting Pakistani military officials of their operations. In retaliation, Pakistan has compromised the identity of CIA operatives in Pakistan, causing a major security breach.
Also, Pakistan’s government officials claim the United States has failed to acknowledge Pakistan’s suffering as a result of terrorist attacks since the 9/11 attacks and its alliance with America.
Since 9/11, there have been numerous suicide bombings in Pakistan and thousands of lives lost at the hands of terrorists. In 2006, there were six suicide bombings; in 2007, that number increased significantly to 56. In 2010, 1,200 people were killed as a result of suicide bombers.
Areas of Concern for U.S. Officials
Concern over the strained relationship between the United States and Pakistan has grown since 9/11. Pakistan’s government expressed anger over the Navy Seals’ strike in Abbottabad.
U.S. officials retorted that keeping the raid confidential from the Pakistani military was critical to ensuring the operation was not compromised. U.S. officials argue informing Pakistan’s military of its planned raid might have tipped off insurgents in the country.
Suspicion is also growing that Pakistan may retaliate by withdrawing support of U.S. troops in the Afghan War. There is concern Pakistan could cut off transit routes that aid the U.S. military in getting supplies into Afghanistan. Currently, 40 percent of supplies for the Afghan war effort go through Pakistan.
Efforts To Salvage U.S.-Pakistani Relations
Pakistan currently receives over $3 billion in economic aid from the U.S. government which goes to fight insurgents. Speculation over whether economic aid would be cut is rising. Despite U.S. legislators’ skepticism over Pakistan’s military intentions, officials say cutting aid to Pakistan is a little premature at this point.
Kerry, in a statement regarding his trip to Pakistan, expressed hope the United States and Pakistan could work together as both countries have a mutual interest in fighting terrorism.
Kerry talks of ”¹…”make or break’ Pakistan ties , Financial Times
The Double Game, The New Yorker