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John Hughes

Don't dump Pakistan

After the Osama bin Laden raid, the mood in Washington over Pakistan is sour. The US is right to challenge Pakistani actions and policies contrary to US interests. But giving Pakistan the cold shoulder and throwing it into the arms of China would be dangerously foolish.

By John Hughes / May 26, 2011

What should the United States do about the strategically important nation of Pakistan?

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The mood in Washington is sour.

Top officials in the White House, the State Department, and the CIA think Pakistan was either complicitous or incompetent in harboring Osama bin Laden.

Some members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, are grumbling about the very substantial US aid package flowing to a partner they deem unreliable, perhaps even untrustworthy.

The military is fed up with an intelligence and military apparatus in Pakistan that chases some terrorist groups but buys off others. Is it not time for the US to dump Pakistan?

Consider the consequences.

Shaky democracy

Pakistan is a shaky democracy that has been in and out of military dictatorships since its creation in 1947 as a homeland for Muslims. Even now, the Pakistani military calls many of the shots. Pakistan’s population of 187 million is fragmented into six main ethnic groups and is abjectly poor. Barely
1 percent of the populace pay taxes. The country’s political institutions are weak, as is its economy.

It is also a nation with a bristling nuclear arsenal of more than 100 missiles and embedded Al Qaeda, Taliban, and other terrorist factions, some of which would dearly like to acquire one of those weapons.

Thus, unless there is dramatic improvement, Pakistan – the world’s sixth-most-populous country – could be a failing Muslim state in a critical strategic region.

Does this seem like a nation the US should spurn, however prickly it may be to work with?

The China factor

A final factor to consider is that if the US disengaged from its rocky partnership with Pakistan, the Pakistanis would probably ally more closely with China, currently an economic rival to the US with strategic ambitions in areas of American dominance.

IN PICTURES: Bin Laden's compound


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