U.S. Pakistani Relations hit a Rocky Patch

The Pakistani parliament approved a bill restoring ties with the United States.  Pakistan was bothered by the United States’ assassination of Osama Bin Laden, for which Pakistan was not notified of the attack prior to the attack. Pakistan was especially bothered by a cross-border United States attack, in which American helicopters killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.    The resolution agreed to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.  However, Pakistan banned all United States drone attacks within the country.  Therefore, any attack using drones within Pakistan would be a violation of International Law.   Drone attacks are unpopular in Pakistan for a variety of reasons.  Most notably is the fact that civilians are killed in attacks in addition to militants. The problem is that the United States needs Pakistan to negotiate agreements in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

Nevertheless, US officials state that drone strikes will continue in Pakistan.  The US position is that if a terrorist comes within striking distance of a drone, it is their obligation to attack the terrorist for safety and national security purposes.   It would not be the first time the US overruled the Pakistani parliament.  In 2008, Pakistan passed a similar resolution forbidding drone strikes, but the US continued drone strikes anyways.  Some suggest that if the US apologizes for the attack which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, it may have a better chance of getting the drone strikes approved by Pakistan.  Others say that the United States should withdraw staff until the spotlight is no longer on the controversy.  A more controversial idea is transferring ownership of the drones to Pakistan.  For now, the White House has stated that drones will now only conduct “signature strikes,” where certain behavior is clearly militant activity.  Either way, it is clear that drone strikes will continue to be unwelcome in Pakistan.

One comment

  1. This is a really tricky situation for everyone involved. Ever since the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was issued by Congress shortly after 9/11, the United States has essentially had free reign to attack terrorists whever they may exist. Because the United States is currently in a “state of war” with respect to terrorists and terrorist organizations, the US Military believes it has justification for launching military strikes in areas of sovereign nations, like Pakistan.

    However, as noted above, everytime we bomb terrorists inside of Pakistan we are violating that nation’s sovereignty. Particularly in light of the fact that hey have passed a statute explicitly forbidding such strikes. Outside fo the civilian deaths, Pakistan has very little leverage when it comes to banning such strikes though. Clearly, they don’t want to be labeled as a terrorist safe haven in the eyes of the international community.

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