U.S. military a threat to Pakistan -poll

October 7, 2008

us2.jpgU.S. government and military leaders worry that  the next attack on the homeland will emanate from western Pakistan, believing al Qaeda to have reconstituted there.

But Pakistanis worry too for their security and their fear is  the U.S. military itself.

A couple of polls on what ordinary Pakistanis think of the  U.S. campaign against al Qaeda makes for interesting reading,  coming as it does ahead of the second  U.S. presidential debate between candidates Barack Obama and John McCain where Pakistan will likely figure high on the foreign policy agenda, as it did in the previous round.

More than four in 10 (45 percent) of those polled by Gallup said the U.S. military presence in neighbouring Afghanistan was a threat to Pakistan.  Only 17 percent said the United States did not imperil their country while a sizeable 38 percent did not have an opinion

Pakistanis appear to be worried about a  U.S. military presence in Asia itself, suggesting the distrust that has crept into the relationship between the two allies runs deep and is not just about the war along the  Afghan-Pakistan border.

Forty-three percent of residents said a U.S. military presence in Asia threatens Pakistan and again only 17 percent said it did not.

Gallup carried out the poll in June, much before the United States intensified cross-border attacks on militants inside Pakistan including the first known ground assault in  September. So, for a significant proportion of Pakistanis  some of those fears are coming true.

Only one in 10 of the respondents said Pakistan’s  cooperation with the United States in the war against Islamist militants had helped their country. A third said it had benefited the United States, Gallup said.

The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 804 people, aged 15 years and older with a margin of error of  5 percentage points.

U.S. troops in Bagram, Afghanistan

A broader, worldwide, BBC poll on the impact of the campaign against al Qaeda published late last month also elicted an interesting and rather  worrying response from Pakistan. 

While the most commonly held view of al-Qaeda in the  23 nations polled was a negative one, Pakistan and Egypt  had different ideas about Osama bin Laden’s organisation.

Some 60% of Egyptians said they had either a positive or  mixed view of al Qaeda.  The BBC suggested this could  be linked to the fact that the group has many Egyptians among its leaders.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, where much of the battle against  al-Qaeda is being fought, just 19% said they had a  negative view of the group.

The findings from Egypt and Pakistan were “yet another  indicator that the US ‘war on terror’ is not winning hearts and minds,” the BBC quoted Doug Miller, from polling agency Globescan, as saying .

Some 24,000 adults across 23 countries were polled for the  BBC World Service between 8 July and 12 September. A  pdf of the poll is available here.

The broader result of the poll was that U.S. efforts at  tackling al Qaeda were not regarded as having been  successful, producing instead a stalemate. Some 29% of people said the “war on terror” launched by  President George W Bush in 2001 had had no effect on  the Islamist militant network.

According to 30% of those surveyed, US policies have  strengthened al Qaeda.



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