U.S. policy on Pakistan under scrutiny

In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan became a key United States ally in the quest to defeat Al Qaeda in neighbouring Afghanistan. But Pakistan has proven an awkward friend for the Americans, despite billions of dollars in aid. Now, the time may have come fo

The relationship between the United States & Pakistan has undergone different stages.

After the Soviet pullback from Afghanistan, U.S.-Pakistani policy slipped from Cold War pragmatism into benign neglect.

“After the Soviets left, the United States made a mistake. We neglected Afghanistan and extremism took control of that country, and the United States paid a price for that on September 11, 2001. We won't make that mistake again,” stated Robert Gates, U.S. Defence Secretary.

Today, the White House praises bilateral ties as a strategic partnership.

Historically, this is a third bout of what turned out to be the United States' fatal attraction with Pakistan – the first being secular dictator General Ayub Khan, and then theocratic General Zia ul-Haq who laid out a foundation of Pakistan Islamisation.

The Pakistani intelligence service (the ISI) set up networks of madrasas and mercenary boot camps in Afghanistan under the veil of anti-Soviet jihad. And although Gen. Zia ul-Haq mysteriously died, his legacy has survived.

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani President

The anti-Soviet jihad mutated into an anti-American jihad culminating in the 9/11 pernicious attack.

And suddenly, General Pervez Musharraf was elevated from obscurity.

“I had a good meeting with President Musharraf. I thanked him for Pakistan's help in the war on terror. Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States,” added Robert Gates.

The international pariah was re-branded as a strategic partner in a new war on terrorism.

“Shortly after 9/11 Secretary Colin Powell came in and said: President Musharraf understands and states he will also join and help,” said President George W. Bush.

Washington's new professed policy toward Pakistan is based on interaction with General Musharraf.

Since 9/11 the United States have invested more than $US 10 BLN in the Pakistani partnership. Meanwhile, the positive return on American investment has yet to be seen.

In hindsight, operation Iraqi Freedom could have been Pakistani Freedom, the objectives of U.S. foreign policy being destroying Al-Qaeda and Taliban network, securing democracy in Pakistan and stabilising Afghanistan.

A democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama, dropped a hint about what was on the mind of the U.S. intelligence community.

“Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will,” U.S. Senator Barack Obama, Democrat.