Pakistan: Ally or Enemy?

On Monday, November 28, tensions rose in an already rocky relationship between the United States and Pakistan. After a NATO aircraft accidentally killed 2 dozen Pakistani troops, the Prime Minister of Pakistan warned the United States that things would not be “business as usual.” Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani stated that he wanted to maintain a working relationship with America so long as “there is mutual respect and respect for Pakistani Sovereignty.” At the moment, he believes this is not the case.

While currently, it is not clear the exact specifics of NATO’s miscue, NATO called it a “tragic unintended event.” In the aftermath, Pakistani citizens have been furious and members of the Pakistani Taliban have called for Gilani to retaliate, stating that “jihad will continue so long as Pakistan is an ally of the United States”. Gilani addressed the gravity of the situation to the Americans, stating “”You cannot win any war without the support of the masses … and such sort of incidents makes people move away from this situation.”

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has never been good, but has always been crucially important. With the United States engaged in a “war on terror” across the border in Afghanistan, the cooperation of the Pakistani government is absolutely necessary for the NATO coalition to succeed in their war. Yet the relationship between the two nations is far from cozy. A recent article called Pakistan an “Ally from Hell,” stating that

“Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?”

So what really is the relationship between the United States and Pakistan? What should it be? Should we continue to work with a nation that underhandedly advocates for the terrorism we seek to avoid? Also, did the United States infringe on Pakistan’s sovereignty in this NATO “accident?” If so, what should the international community do about it?


  1. I would say Pakistan is both an ally and an enemy. The American-Pakistani alliance is one of the most interesting bilateral relationships to be formed in the past seventy years. Given its unique geopolitical situation, Pakistan has been 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) agency helping to smuggle al-Qaeda militants into Afghanistan to fight NATO troops, and it is highly likely that Pakistan was aware of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts for years without informing United States officials. Yet, in light of all of this, aid to Pakistan increases in the billions every year. Furthermore, 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. It has also been said that Pakistan is using networks like Haqqani to gain influence in Afghanistan and other regions. In order for the American-Pakistani relationship to last, there has to be more than American respect for Pakistani sovereignty. Pakistan also needs to end its contradictory behavior. As long as Pakistan calls itself a friend of the United States while continuing to support terrorism, the American-Pakistani relationship will continue to deteriorate.

  2. Although Pakistan in far from a reliable ally, the United States has no choice but to ally themselves with them. Pakistan plays a crucially important role in fighting the war on terror. This is in spite of the fact that they are far from reliable allies. The fact still remains that Pakistan’s geographic position as well as its significance as a place of Islamic extremism make it a place of vital importance in fighting the war on terror. To not make an ally of Pakistan, whether they are reliable or not, would be to put the United States in a much worse position in fighting the war on terror than they are currently in. The point is that the United States needs to keep a presence as an ally of Pakistan. It will be the job of United States intelligence officials to determine whether or not the information they get is reliable or not, but at least the United States will have access to information that might prove useful in combating terrorism.

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