Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
With the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the United States and Pakistan have put behind them one of the more public rows of their up-and-down relationship. It was probably not the worst row — remember the furore over a raid by U.S. ground troops in Angor Adda in Waziristan in 2008, itself preceded by a deluge of leaks to the U.S. media about the alleged duplicity of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its dealings on Afghanistan.
But it was certainly one which by its very nature was guaranteed to get the most attention – an American who shot dead two Pakistanis in what he said was an act of self-defence, denied diplomatic immunity and ultimately released only after the payment of blood money. Adding to the drama were two intelligence agencies battling behind the scenes.
It was also the first serious row since the Obama administration began to build what it promised would be a new strategic relationship with Pakistan.
As I wrote earlier this month, overall relations between the United States and Pakistan were rather better than they looked (or at least than they appeared at the height of the Davis row). Compared to two years ago, Pakistan is more likely to talk now about the need for stability in Afghanistan than strategic depth (the extent of this shift is open to debate). The United States has also moved closer towards meeting Pakistan’s calls for a political settlement in Afghanistan by holding direct talks with representatives of the Taliban, according to several official sources with knowledge of those contacts.
Given the high-decibel volume of the row over Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore in January, it would be tempting to assume that overall relations between Pakistan and the United States are the worst they have been in years.
At a strategic level, however, there’s actually rather greater convergence of views than there has been for a very long time.
Is the Pakistan army getting ready to act against the Taliban militants who have made the deepest advance yet into the country, seizing control of Buner district, 100 km (60 miles) from Islamabad, after taking over Swat region?
The militants began withdrawing on Friday just as quietly as they moved into the district, and it wasn’t clear what had led to the sudden withdrawal.