Breaking Up Is Not Hard to Do

Why the U.S.-Pakistani Alliance Isn't Worth the Trouble

Washington has not had an easy time managing the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, to put it mildly. For decades, the United States has sought to change Pakistan's strategic focus from competing with India and seeking more influence in Afghanistan to protecting its own internal stability and economic development. But even though Pakistan has continued to depend on U.S. military and economic support, it has not changed its behavior much. Each country accuses the other of being a terrible ally -- and perhaps both are right.

Pakistanis tend to think of the United States as a bully. In their view, Washington provides desperately needed aid intermittently, yanking it away whenever U.S. officials want to force policy changes. Pakistanis believe that Washington has never been grateful for the sacrifice of the thousands of Pakistani military and security officials who have died fighting terrorists in recent decades, nor mourned the tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians whom those terrorists have killed. Many in the country, including President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, recognize that Pakistan has at times gone off the American script, but they argue that the country would be a better ally if only the United States showed more sensitivity to Islamabad's regional concerns.

On the other side, Americans see Pakistan as the ungrateful recipient of almost $40 billion in economic and military assistance since 1947, $23 billion of it for fighting terrorism over the last decade alone. In their view, Pakistan has taken American dollars with a smile, even as it covertly developed nuclear weapons in the 1980s, passed nuclear secrets to others in the 1990s, and supported Islamist militant groups more recently. No matter what Washington does, according to a growing cadre of U.S. senators, members of Congress, and editorial writers, it can't count on Pakistan as a reliable ally. Meanwhile, large amounts of U.S. aid have simply failed to invigorate Pakistan's economy.

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