Pakistan: Friend, Enemy, or Both?

In May 2007, the Pakistani and Afghan military fought over a disputed border outpost near Gawi in the Jaji District of Afghanistan resulting in nearly a dozen casualties.  Later that month, a group of American, Pakistani, and Afghan officials met in the Pakistani village of Teri Mangal.  The meeting, it was hoped, would cool tensions between the two nations and smother the flames of a brewing conflict.  American officials who were present stated that the meeting was tense and akin to “refereeing children.”  However, after nearly 5 hours of talks, an agreement had been struck, phone numbers were exchanged, and talks of subsequent meetings were being discussed.

As the American and Afghan officials climbed into vehicles which would ferry them back to a helicopter landing zone shots from an automatic rifle rang out.  When the shooting stopped 20 seconds later an American Army Airborne Major was dead and three American officers, as well as their Afghan interpreter, lay wounded. The Americans and Afghans staggered back to the landing zone and were whisked away in Black Hawk helicopters.

Statements by the Afghan government and NATO mirrored Pakistani claims that the shooting was perpetrated by insurgents.  However, an investigation by the American military tells an entirely different tale.  The likely culprit was not insurgents or Al Qaeda; instead, details of the attack point to a coordinated ambush by the Pakistani government.

American military officials familiar with the situation in Pakistan felt that the ambush fit a pattern of Pakistani retaliation for losses suffered at the hands of American and Afghan troops, and further highlighted an even more alarming trend of Pakistani intelligence services working to undermine efforts in Afghanistan.  Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate that there was credible evidence indicating that insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul last month were aided by Pakistani intelligence services.

Despite a paucity of details from Washington, the American/Pakistani relationship seems to have further deteriorated since the Teri Mangal incident.  One need look no further than the American Special Operations mission this past May which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden—a raid which was intentionally kept secret from the Pakistani government.

The news of Pakistan’s involvement in the attack coupled with evidence of their connections to insurgents poses a serious dilemma to U.S. and Pakistani relations moving forward.  At a time when American troops are drawing down their numbers in Afghanistan can we count on continued Pakistani support in the War on Terror?  Will they continue to allow our drones to strike suspected terrorist targets in their tribal regions?  Is there any hope for resuscitating flagging American and Pakistani relations?

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One comment

  1. The American-Pakistani alliance is one of the most interesting bilateral relationships to be formed in the past seventy years. For decades, the United States has been questioning the actions and motives of Pakistan. Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally of the United States in the War on Terror and a leading recipient of U.S. aid. However, there have been reports of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) helping to smuggle al-Qaeda militants into Afghanistan to fight NATO troops and it is highly likely that Pakistan was aware of bin Laden’s whereabouts for years without informing United States officials. In light of all of this, aid to Pakistan increases in the billions every year. Given Pakistan’s unique geopolitical situation, it is a valuable ally to the United States. However, the United States needs to find a way to ensure that Pakistani aid does not fall into the wrong hands. It is very possible that some of the money which ends up in the hands of the ISI could be used to support groups like the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda, which are ultimately killing American citizens abroad. Additionally, it has been said that Pakistan is using networks like Haqqani to gain influence in Afghanistan and other regions. According to Daniel Markey, a former state department official, “The U.S. needs to make it very clear that it is simply unacceptable for Pakistan to use militant groups that the U.S. has identified as threats for its own interests.” Markey further believes that the United States should devise a way for Pakistan to project their influence without using these militant groups. Yet, this is a huge challenge.


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