US-Pakistan tensions: Time to stop pretending we are allies?
Pakistan's former ambassador to the US suggests that American attempts to steer Pakistani policy with billions of dollars are only delaying a needed divorce and reset of relations.
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His last appearance in Washington as ambassador was at a Monitor breakfast – on Nov. 16, the same day he was ordered back to Islamabad to answer charges of seeking US government help in deposing Pakistan’s powerful military leadership. The charges – unfounded, according to Haqqani – turned into a political storm the Pakistani media dubbed “Memogate,” because it involved a memo sent to then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen seeking US help in preventing a military coup against Pakistan’s weak civilian government.Skip to next paragraph
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Haqqani denied having anything to do with the memo, but even as ambassador he was a vocal advocate of a stronger civilian government to which the military would take a back seat. That position earned him the disdain of Pakistan’s military and powerful intelligence services, which openly derided Haqqani for having in their estimation adopted an American perspective on the relationship after living so long in the US.
Haqqani says one need only consider recent opinion polls from both countries to conclude that a relationship based on unrealistic expectations on both sides is not working. He notes that a Pew global opinion poll earlier this year revealed that 74 percent of Pakistanis view the US as an “enemy” – almost identical to the percentage of Americans that a Fox News found do not consider Pakistan an “ally.”
About half of Pakistanis would like the US to continue sending billions of dollars in assistance to Pakistan despite their disdain for the source, but Haqqani says the US should give up the illusion that aid can buy policies the US prefers. He points to what he calls the most recent round of “engagement,” the post-9/11 years during which the US sent Pakistan tens of billions of dollars in mostly military aid to enlist Pakistan’s cooperation against Al Qaeda and in Pakistan.
Another failure, he says.
Under a “post-alliance” relationship, Haqqani says he assumes the US will continue its campaign of drone strikes against Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistan, on the other hand, will pursue a policy that it believes will promote its primary goal, which is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a base for attacks on Pakistan.
Haqqani says Pakistan has an existential question to decide: “Do we want to be a future South Korea, or do we want to be Iran without oil?” he posits.
It’s a question only Pakistanis can answer, he says, and perhaps one that the US-Pakistani relationship, as it stands now, is allowing Pakistanis to put off answering.