While Islamabad and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have historically served as American allies, Pakistan’s tense relations with the American government and military as well as with the Karzai regime have forced America to reevaluate U.S.-Pakistan relations. America’s approximately $20 billion in military and economic aid since 9/11 have served to support Pakistan’s weak government, incentivize Pakistan and its intelligence agency to combat terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, deter nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and maintain a level of peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Despite U.S. military and financial aid, however, Pakistan has proven to be an unreliable ally in combating terrorism in Afghanistan and has even aided terrorist organizations such as the Haqqani network on the Afghan border, the Afghan Taliban, and other anti-Indian networks.
As the U.S. reevaluates its foreign policy in Pakistan, it must consider the pros and cons of its relationship so far. Though Pakistan has proven to be an active proliferator of nuclear weapons technology, a supporter of the aforementioned terrorist groups that attack NATO, and Afghan, American, and Indian military troops, and an instigator of widespread anti-American sentiment, the U.S. has experienced some benefits from its partnership with Pakistan. For example, Pakistan allows the U.S. and NATO to use its routes to carry troops and supplies to Afghanistan, has helped capture senior al Qaeda operatives, and has allowed the U.S. to launch numerous drone strikes from bases in its territories.
So how did America’s relationship with Pakistan turn so sour in recent months, and what is the solution for American foreign policy officials? While U.S.-Pakistan relations have long been shaky, recent events have stirred greater feelings of anti-Americanism. Most recently, the November 26, 2011 NATO attack in the Mohmand tribal area, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, further complicated military cooperation and resulted in the closure of the Shamsi military base. Other events, including the January 11, 2011 incident of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore, infuriate government and military officials, as well as civilians. Perhaps most importantly, drone strikes and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May promote the belief among Pakistanis that America continues to disrespect their sovereignty.
In light of the growing U.S.-Pakistan tensions, how can the U.S. and NATO reduce their reliance on Pakistan and its intelligence agency and still effectively combat terrorism in Afghanistan? Firstly, America should gradually reduce its reliance on Pakistan’s transportation routes and military air bases. In recent months, the U.S. has already reduced its rate by which it transports troops and supplies into Afghanistan. According to an Economist blog titled “Pakistan and America: Till deaths us do part” on November 27, 2011, America has reduced the amount of supplies it transports through Pakistan to 30% by using aircrafts and Afghanistan’s northern borders instead of the traditional Pakistani routes. The U.S. should continue reducing its reliance on these routes to limit its relationship with Pakistan.
Secondly, the U.S. should reduce its military aid to Pakistan, but maintain economic, civilian, and humanitarian assistance. To complement this assistance, private corporations could use their resources to finance infrastructure projects that promote stability and reduce the need for foreign aid.
Though America still needs a relationship with Pakistan to combat terrorism and prevent terrorist plots against the U.S., reduced military aid and reliance on Pakistan will likely benefit both states. Not only will this new strategy appease Washington policy makers who criticize excessive aid to Pakistan, but Pakistani civilians, government officials, and military personnel will taste the greater sense of sovereignty for which they have been waiting.