We need a new Pakistan-U.S. relationship

May 4, 2011

By Farhana Qazi
The opinions expressed are her own.

For the United States, Bin Laden is history. He is an after-thought. And it is almost certain that the Central Intelligence Agency has moved onto its next target. But for Pakistan, the death of the terrorist kingpin is not over as U.S policy makers debate Islamabad’s role in the war on terrorism.

Since the news of Bin Laden’s death, Islamabad’s elites are being attacked and accused of harboring a famed terrorist leader. In his latest piece for The Daily Beast, Salman Rushdie boldly stated that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist state for playing a “deadly game” with America unless Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus, or the ISI, can offer “satisfactory answers.” Rushdie is right to demand an answer but wrong to insist that Pakistan be isolated for protecting proxies and pariahs.

Less than a week after Bin Laden’s death, there are important details that have emerged that need to be answered. When did Bin Laden arrive in Abbottabad? Why did the local owner of the compound rent the home to an individual in Waziristan? Why did a rival to the once-deadly-terrorist leader of the Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Masud live in the same compound? And why was there indication that the compound was being expanded? What we have are details of a deadly mystery. What we do not have is any indication that Pakistan’s senior leadership had knowledge that al Qaeda’s elite moved to and from Abbottabad.

Immediate answers to the “after-Bin-Laden” mystery case have yet to be provided. We have to accept that the details about the legendary terrorist leader that will likely unfold over the coming days may not satisfy the American or Pakistani public. Newspaper sensationalism over who-knew-and-why adds to the fury inside both countries and detracts from the more important facts.

We should focus on what we do know. Bin Laden, and hundreds of other senior and low-level al Qaeda members, have been apprehended inside Pakistan with joint cooperation among the CIA and ISI. The kill-and-capture of al Qaeda operatives is a win-win situation for both countries. Mission accomplished.

In truth, caution defines the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. All intelligence agencies protect sources and methods. The CIA and ISI both have their dark secrets. And there will always be distrust and distance between them. Counter-terrorism cooperation between the United States and Pakistan is imperfect and has its limits. Only when mutual interest is established can the two agencies agree to capture — or kill — top al Qaeda operators. In a world driven by spymasters, there are no good guys or bad boys. There is only strategic benefit.

The most pivotal question that deserves attention is how to manage a delicate U.S.-Pakistan relationship. What matters most now is that Washington and Islamabad reaffirm their commitment to eliminate the plethora of local (and foreign) terror organizations that destabilize the region. In an ill-defined relationship, we have to be realistic. America cannot expect Pakistan to chase its insurgents. To expect Pakistan to disentangle its ties with local jihadi groups is unrealistic at this time. Nor can Pakistan expect that America offer aid and assistance without being held accountable.

While important questions deserve answers, this is not the time to marginalize or punish Pakistan while Americans celebrate the death of a global terrorist ringleader. This is not the time to withdraw U.S. funding from Pakistan. But it is time to redefine the relationship.

The United States has a right to demand that Pakistan continue the fight against extremism and support Washington’s efforts in Afghanistan. It is also Pakistan’s right to ask that America refrain from ending an alliance that offers Islamabad security overtures against India and potential adversaries. Both countries may no longer view each other as indispensable allies, but the two ill-suited partners can not deny that neither one alone can terminate the terrorists that thrive there.

Farhana Qazi is a Pakistani-American and a former counter-terrorism analyst in the U.S. government. She currently lectures on Islam and Pakistan to the international community. (She can be reached at farhana331@gmail.com.

Photos, top to bottom: Farhana Qazi on CSPAN; Local residents try to look past the gates into the compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood


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It is time we learnt that the US does not need Pakistan; in fact never needed it. Pakistan has perfected the art of sucking everything from us and not doing anything in return except hurt us. We have to be the dumbest nation in the world for believing that Pakistan did not know where their protege Osama Bin Laden has been all these years. We have every right to take any measure we deem necessary to protect our country and people; we don’t need Pakistan’s permission since they have maintained the largest terror network in their country whose proclaimed mission has been to hurt us. The two countries which have suffered most at the hands of Pakistan are the US and India. Let’s cut all aid flowing to Pakistan immediately and let them kill each other instead of killing people in other countries. On a side note did Osama’s murderous machine think of it’s victims religious rights while we are trying to explain how we followed Osama’s Islamic traditions in disposing his body. We should have left his body to burn in that helicopter that we had to abandon there.

Posted by iitm70 | Report as abusive

If India does not “Trust” Pakistan, why should the United States!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Zama_747 | Report as abusive

Pakistan is no different than any other arab nation except that they have nukes. Their govt puts on the guise of being neutral, yet their actions mostly speak otherwise. They play both sides of the fence, and play dumb when things like this happen. Not throwing money at Pakistan might turn them into a rogue nation like the rest of the middle east, but hey, everyone over there hates us anyway, so why not take our money back and put it towards our sickly economy. There is no way they didnt know Bin Laden was there. As Bush said, you are either with us, or against us….I think we all know whos side they are on.

Posted by jphillipin | Report as abusive

The Pakistani government may well have helped the US find Bin Laden. I am sure they would not have wanted the credit, being a country that is infested with thousands of terrorists.

Pakistan is at least trying to become more secular and democratic, more than can be said for Saudi Arabia and Iran, to name a few. I wish them well in their path to democracy.

Posted by Edgarw | Report as abusive

Pakistani govt since beginning has not walked their talk. This article reflects the same.

There is no need for Pakistan to answer these “tough” questions put forth in this article. The world already knows the truth. So don’t even try to restore the image, there was none to begin with.

Pakistani democracy is a joke. There’s nothing to be salvaged there. People who are responsible for creating the terrorists are put into power and then they try to act as if they are fighting the war on terror along US.

I would give a hands of applause to Pakistan to be able to fool money out of the most powerful (smartest?) nation in the world.

Posted by sochguru | Report as abusive

Very interesting article, and full of great points. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that we should condemn Pakistan.

Pakistan is far too sensitive about India, living in a middle-ages mindset that they will be invaded at any moment due to 1979’s issues and Kashmir. Still, they have an option to either side with the terrorists or side with the US. The terrorists aren’t giving billions of dollars per year to Pakistan, but then again Pakistan has no real pressure to make a final decision either way.

For the moment, Islamabad seems quite happy to sit on the fence and play both sides, but it also makes them uniquely well suited to mediate issues.

Posted by oriondg | Report as abusive

I am very sceptical of this relationship the U.S. has with its Pakistan counterparts… so, many complex forces at work in Pakistani interests, that counter our own. I believe we can only go forward with them, hedging our bets along the way, by rewarding portions of those billions of dollars in aid, only when circumstances on the ground, i.e. like uprooting Afghan militants and their proxies, before the money can be handed over (over a phased period). Dollars have to be contingent on our interests being met with evidence of their actions, or willingness for joint-actions, where verified progress can be measured on the ground. Just my opinion.

Posted by mexican184 | Report as abusive

Pakistan doesn’t deserve to get aid from US. Only people who are dumb would trust Pakistan. They’re like a poisonous snake. I’ll not be surprised if the 3rd WW starts from there. They are in a grave situation, they might think attacking is the best form of defense and they might go in for misadventures. Now they have a new friend in CHINA. What do they have to loose, since they are already on the verge of bankruptcy and a confirmed failed state. So the world will have to look out.

Posted by ger1c0 | Report as abusive

“America cannot expect Pakistan to chase its insurgents. To expect Pakistan to disentangle its ties with local jihadi groups is unrealistic at this time.”…I am confused by this statement. A sovereign country has the responsibility to stop “its jihadi groups from wrecking other lives. I repeat – RESPONSIBILITY. If it cannot achieve this goal, it cannot dictate terms of engagement in any relationship. The moderates in that country need to find their voice in some way. Technology today has offered them avenues. Playing the victim does not bode well for that effort.

Posted by balancedcitizen | Report as abusive

At the heart of Pakistan’s problem is Islam. Pakistan is a nation of converts. The sole identity is that they seek to be super Arabs. They even use Arab font! They seek to deny their past. Their ancestors were all Hindu, and the fact of a booming India (with a sizeable Hindu majority) irks them. Their entire ethos is that they are not India. Pakistan is facing an existential crisis.

VS Naipaul stated this dilemma elegantly when he wrote:

“Islam is in its origin an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands. His sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own: he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his.”

The globe trotting elite of Pakistan like Ms Qazi make silly and nonsensical statements that India is a threat. Did India train and arm terrorist to go on a shooting spree in Pakistan? Another silly statement:

“To expect Pakistan to disentangle its ties with local jihadi groups is unrealistic at this time”

Why not? Did your corrupt military-jihadi-complex state not create and allow these groups to fester?

India wants to be left alone to pursue its growth agenda.

The US should not allow a single Pakistani to granted a Visa nor should the corrupt elite be allow to study in the US, let alone be allowed to write this gibberish which amounts to defending the indefensible.

Posted by RS108 | Report as abusive

Once we pull out of Afghanistan and let it return to fuedal rule, we will cut all funding to Pakistan and it’s multiple personality disorder leadership.

They know it and we know it so the Pakistanis have no reason to support our war against the Taliban.

If they were to crush the Taliban which the ISI could easily do, it would open the door (at least in the minds of politicians) for Indian influence.

Posted by kc10man | Report as abusive

Farhana Qasi has done her best to safeguard a bunch of liers in the Government, ISI and the Army in Pakistan. But the reality remains that nobody can save a failed state. Pakistan needs to be dismantled as of now.

Posted by greenv | Report as abusive

Presence of Osama and his cronies in Islamabad proves the point that for Pakistanis, terrorism is a state policy and source of income from international community.

Posted by manishindia | Report as abusive

SOFA and bilateral agreements for and with the United States keeps military and government personnel as well as U.S. citizens from being arrested and tried for war crimes in international courts. Where is the WMD in Iraq? Where was Bin Laden?

RS108, Christianity started off as a Jewish sect. Are not Europeans and and those in the Americas converts too? And if so, do they not deserve the disdain you hold for the Pakistanis?

If one wishes to talk about terrorism one only needs to examine the thousands of bombings of African American churches and Mosques over the past for decades. Jewish and Arab leaders have been targeted for assassination. Let us not forget the linchings and chaining people to vehicles by Klan and other right wing individuals just because they are not white Christians.

The united states will see 12,000 of it’s citizens die from guns alone this year. This is more than the entire industrialized world will see in 10 years. Our health care system leaves tens of thousands to die for lack of health care. Our prisons and jails are overcrowded with the mentally ill, the disabled and people of color for the crime of not being able to afford competent legal council. Clearly the U.S. should focus more on cleaning up it’s on back yard.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive

At the end ties between both the countries are soured these days and American officials are frequently visiting the country to review and consolidate them. Nevertheless America added fuel to fire as now it is looking forward to some political settlements with Afghan Taliban thinking staying close with the bad guys will help to catch bad guys .This will go again in the disfavor of Pakistan as the war will go inconsequential after a long struggle accompanied with plenty of sacrifices . It will lead to further anti-American sentiments in the nation and defame of the ruling party.
It seems from the several incidents that two countries are having cold war because both are good opportunists whenever time comes. Now America wants to know if Pakistan is still committed to continue war against terrorism or not. This is actually an indirect question to know Pakistan’s response towards the American calls after all the wounds. Pakistan should answer in affirmation as it is the need of the hour. Pakistan is facing a total crisis situation due to inefficient and insensitive government and without support of a super power getting out of it will become inevitable. On the other side Americans must not disregard all the efforts and sacrifices Pakistan has made to prove its commitments and dedication towards the mutual goal of terrorism elimination. The CIA officials and their offices in the country without proper visas, drone attacks and the not shared attack of Navy SEAL are the manifestations of honoring commitments.
Read about the America’s new question
http://www.dunyanews.tv/index.php?key=Q2 F0SUQ9MiNOaWQ9MjcwNjM
Read about COAS Kiyani ‘s answer
http://www.dunyanews.tv/index.php?key=Q2 F0SUQ9MiNOaWQ9MjcwMDQ

Posted by mrfaaiz | Report as abusive

It is time we learnt that the US does not need Pakistan and india do not trust the pakistani isi. i belived that india helps the terrorists.in the time all we being a pakistani weak up because America cannot expect Pakistan to chase its insurgents. To expect Pakistan to disentangle its ties with local jihadi groups is unrealistic at this time .America is ready to ateck the pakistan

Posted by suzukimehran | Report as abusive