U.S. airstrikes test alliance with Pakistan
Militants are targeted by drones to keep them from entering Afghanistan.
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Adds Mr. Yusuf, the Boston University analyst: "There's no room for giving the benefit of the doubt anymore."Skip to next paragraph
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America's new aggressiveness in Pakistan comes amid – and perhaps because of – this declining confidence. Hours after Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, vowed to "respect Pakistan's sovereignty" Wednesday, the US launched another missile strike into South Waziristan.
Lessons from Iraq
The goal is to kill and harass senior militant leaders as effectively as the US did in Iraq. A new generation of the Predator drones used in Iraq is now being deployed along the Pakistan-Afghan border, the Los Angeles Times reports. The drones have an wider array of sensors to make identification of suspects easier – even inside buildings.
Even to make Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders "feel they can't stay in one place for more than one night" might begin to have a psychological effect, according to Mr. Markey. They have felt relatively safe in Pakistan until now, he says. If the strikes succeed, he adds, "it makes the political cost worthwhile."
But this is a precarious line to tread, as witnessed by Mullen's hastily arranged trip. "The Pakistani response [to American military operations] may have been more vociferous than anticipated," says Markey.
The people's outrage is not altogether a surprise. Ever since the United States used Pakistan as a staging area for the resistance of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s – whipping up religious fervor to unite the Islamic world against the Soviets – Pakistanis have seen America as meddlers.
America's presumption to carry out brazen attacks in Pakistan is confirming that view.
"Trying to overcome terrorism through such tactics will only help [in] aggravating Pakistani citizens' hatred against the US," says Ferdos Wasif, another Lahore resident. She adds that the arrival of Mullen – instead of a civilian politician – shows that America's interest in Pakistan is only military.
Yet the warning Tuesday that Pakistani troops would fire on US troops suggests that the Pakistani Army, too, feels antagonized. From the beginning, it has been loath to go to war in the tribal areas. The militants most active in Afghanistan are not seen to be a threat to Pakistan, and fighting a counterinsurgency would be immensely difficult for an army built to contend with the huge Indian military.
The recent attacks may make it harder for Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani to push through reforms. "The most dangerous thing is that rising anti-Americanism in the Army will make it difficult for Kayani to get things done," says Mr. Rashid.
In the end, America will need the Pakistani Army. To destroy the insurgency, "we need to displace these groups in a more permanent way," says Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations – something only the Pakistanis can do.
With the Pakistani economy in dire condition, the Pakistanis will need the Americans, too. To step back from the brinkmanship of the past few weeks, the two countries must begin to recast the relationship forged under Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf.
This means dialogue with Pakistan's new military and civilian leaders to build trust and to get a clearer sense of what Pakistan can realistically do against militants, says Markey: "That [effort] needs to be really upgraded before we throw in the towel."
• Rana Kashif contributed from Lahore, Pakistan.